- Foreign Minister says diplomatic relations will not change unless India reverts to its position before August 4, 2019
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Friday that Pakistan’s position of Kashmir remains unchanged.
Addressing a press conference after the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting, he said “Pakistan’s decision to attend the meeting was excellent because I got to meet every foreign minister separately except for one”.
“We got to deliver our statement in official gathering and our goals are fulfilled,” he said.
He cited that historically, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had advocated for normalisation of Pakistan-India relations but after India violated international law in August 2019, “that space has shrunk for me”.
“In the past, Benazir Bhutto tried and Asif Ali Zardari tried for the same but India’s illegal actions undermined the bilateral environment and onus is on India,” he said. “Now, there is a trust deficit. Both sides can sign an agreement but we are not sure if the understanding will be respected or not.”
India should create a conducive environment for talks, he stressed.
“Diplomatic relations with India will not change unless India reverts to its position before August 4, 2019,” he stated.
In August 2019, India revoked the special status granted to occupied Kashmir.
Speaking about the conference itself, FM Bilawal said that there was no distinction between how Pakistan was treated and how others were treated at SCO.
“I put forward Pakistan’s vision and Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar put forward India’s vision,” he said. “Our bilateral differences had no impact on this conference.”
‘Illegal actions run counter to SCO objectives’
Separately in his address at the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers moot in Goa, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Friday that unilateral and illegal measures by states in violation of international law and Security Council resolutions “run counter to the SCO objectives”.
The Foreign Office (FO), in a Twitter thread, quoted the FM as saying, “There couldn’t be a more powerful indication of the importance that Pakistan attaches to the SCO than my presence here in Goa for this Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM).”
The ministry further said that in his address, Bilawal reiterated Pakistan’s belief and adherence to the “principles of mutual trust, equality, respect for cultural diversity, and the pursuit of shared development enshrined in the original ‘Shanghai Spirit’”.
He also said that the SCO could be a key platform for taking the vision of Eurasian connectivity to the next level, FO said.
Bilawal also urged the member nations to not use “terrorism for diplomatic point-scoring”.
“The collective security of our peoples is our joint responsibility. […] Let’s not get caught up in weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring,” FO quoted Bilawal as saying.
‘Peaceful Afghanistan key to global peace’
Speaking on Afghanistan, Bilawal said that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is a key not only to regional integration and economic cooperation “but also to global peace and stability”.
The FM urged the global community to work towards addressing security concerns to unlock the true potential of not only Afghanistan but the region as a whole.
Collective efforts for poverty
On the poverty situation in the SCO region, Bilawal called for collective efforts to mitigate financial sufferings of the people of the member states.
“We can only overcome this challenge through common efforts and by learning from each other’s experiences,”.
He said the establishment of the Special Working Group on Poverty Alleviation proposed by Pakistan will be a step in that direction.
Earlier, he was welcomed by his Indian counterpart Dr S Jaishankar at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers moot in Goa.
“I am very happy that today I have arrived here leading the delegation of Pakistan,” Bilawal had told reporters on Thursday upon his arrival.
Bilawal is the first senior Pakistani leader to visit India since 2016 amid longstanding tensions between the large, nuclear-armed South Asian rivals.
The most recent visit to India by a high-ranking Pakistan diplomat was in 2016, when Sartaj Aziz — then the senior foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister — travelled there.
The SCO is a political and security union of countries spanning much of Eurasia, including China, India and Russia. Formed in 2001 by Russia, China and ex-Soviet states in Central Asia, the body has been expanded to include India and Pakistan.
On Thursday, Bilawal also met his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines SCO summit.
The two foreign ministers discussed bilateral, regional and international matters of mutual interest and assured each other of working closely to further deepen cooperation between their countries in the areas of food security, energy and people-to-people contact.
“The SCO opens new vistas of cooperation and coordination with Russia,” the Foreign Office said.
Separately at the SCO, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang assured his Russian and Indian counterparts of deepening bilateral ties, promising that “coordination and cooperation” will only grow stronger, in a show of solidarity with two of China’s biggest neighbours.
During his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the SCO meeting, Qin said China is “willing to maintain communication and coordination with Russia to make tangible contributions to the political settlement of the crisis” in Ukraine.
The two sides also agreed to strengthen communication and coordination with other SCO member-states and maintain the bloc’s “unity”, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry on Friday.
They additionally agreed to strengthen coordination in the Asia-Pacific, the ministry said, without giving details. Currently the bloc includes Russia, India, China, Pakistan and four Central Asian countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.