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India to invite Imran Khan for Shanghai Council meet

Move comes hours after the UNSC discusses the situation in Kashmir

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will be invited to participate in the Heads of Government Council meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that will be hosted in India this year, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday. The invite move came hours after the UN Security Council discussed the situation in Kashmir.

“As per the established practice and procedure within SCO, all eight members of the SCO, four observer states, and other international dialogue partners will be invited to attend the meeting,” said Official Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in response to a question on whether Mr. Khan will be invited for the summit.

Since becoming full-time member of the SCO in 2017, both India and Pakistan have participated in multiple meetings of SCO and the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) despite hostilities and tension in Kashmir. The Heads of Government Council meeting is attended by the Prime Minister-level leaders of the member states that deliberate on the regional body’s economic and other pressing issues. The meeting also firms up SCO’s annual budget.

Prime Minister Khan who assumed office in 2018 has been a tough critic of India’s continued lockdown of Kashmir. He has also taken up the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 and the National Register of Citizens both domestically and on global platforms.

Though his predecessor Nawaz Sharif had visited India in May 2014 for the “mini-SAARC summit”, Mr. Khan has not been invited to India till now. On Thursday, the Pakistani leader welcomed the discussion on Kashmir held at the UN Security Council in New York, saying that the meeting “reflects a recognition of the seriousness of the prevailing situation (in Kashmir).”

Wednesday’s meeting on Kashmir was the second such China-backed one on “The India-Pakistan Question” at the UNSC since India ended the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019.

Reflecting on the discussion of Kashmir, Mr. Kumar said it is a “bilateral matter” and Pakistan “through a member of the UNSC” is misusing the high table of UN-level diplomacy.

He argued that there is an international consensus favouring India’s position on Kashmir.

“The overwhelming majority of the UNSC members were of the view that UNSC was not the right forum for such issues...the informal closed-door meeting, therefore, concluded without any outcome. We sincerely hope that the message has gone across loud and clear to Pakistan that if at all there is any matter between India and Pakistan that needs to be discussed, it should be discussed bilaterally,” said Mr. Kumar.

He urged China to take note of support for India’s position and said Beijing should “draw the proper lessons and refrain from taking such action in future.”

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