India’s External Affairs Ministry on Thursday confirmed that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan would also be invited to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, a meeting of heads of governments to be held later this year in New Delhi.
“India will be hosting the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation head of governments’ meeting later this year. As per established practice and procedure in SCO, all eight members of the SCO, as well as four observer states, and other international dialogue partners, will be invited to attend the meeting”, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Thursday.
The announcement holds significance as New Delhi has often said that “talks and terror cannot go together”, while rejecting the possibilities of holding talks with arch-rival Pakistan.
Asked if the Pakistani prime minister would receive an invitation, the External Affairs Ministry's spokesperson reiterated that all eight members would get an invitation for the SCO head of governments' meeting later this year.
Pakistan will have to decide if its participation will be at the prime minister-level or if representation from the government would mark the country’s presence at the SCO summit.
The meeting is held annually at the prime minister level and discusses the SCO's programme and multilateral economic and trade co-operation.
The SCO, or Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance that comprises eight members – China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and India.
While Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia are SCO observers, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey are dialogue partners.
Relations between India and Pakistan have traditionally been tense over competing claims to parts of the Kashmir region since both nations gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947. The Indian parliament passed a resolution in 1994 staking a claim over the whole of Jammu and Kashmir.
The situation between the two neighbours became further tense in 2019, which witnessed more than 3,000 ceasefire violations on the Line of Control, the de-facto border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir region.
At least 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in a blast on a highway in the Pulwama area of Indian-administered Kashmir on 14 February, responsibility for which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed. It triggered an air strike by India in late February and a subsequent dogfight with Pakistan a day later.
On 5 August, India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s decades old special status and later bifurcated it into two federally administered territories, something that has been strongly condemned by Pakistan, which also claims all of Kashmir.