There has been much anticipation ahead of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting from 4-5 May 2023, in Goa, India. The reason remains the prevailing deadlock between Pakistan and India, the two strategically important South Asian neighbours, which loomed large over the prospects of regional peace and development for decades. Particularly, after the BJP government’s illegal and unilateral measures in the context of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) on August 5, 2019, the bilateral relationship hit a new low. Against that backdrop, a pertinent question arises: Why did Pakistan decide to send its Foreign Minister to the SCO-CFM in India, when the current Indian regime remains intransigent on Jammu & Kashmir dispute, continues to operate from an ultranationalist mindset, and makes an instrumental use of India’s relations with Pakistan to accrue domestic political gains and electoral dividends?
Pakistan’s decision to attend the SCO-CFM in-person is, evidently, a prudent diplomatic choice. It reaffirms, in the most unequivocal terms, Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to the principles and objectives of SCO and the importance Islamabad attaches to SCO as a trans-regional Eurasian platform. This reflects Pakistan’s long-term vision – which is cognizant of the evolving geopolitical realities ushering the world into a new era of alignments and re-alignments. As has been reported, following consultations among all stakeholders, the decision was for the Foreign Minister to attend the meeting personally and, thus, deliver a clear message.