NEWS DELHI: In a surprising development, India said on Thursday that Prime Minister Imran Khan will be invited to the annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
“All eight members of SCO as well as four observer states and other international dialogue partners will be invited to attend the meeting,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters.
The decision to accept the invitation will be on Pakistan’s Premier Imran Khan, he added.
Last year in June, Premier Imran attended the 19th Meeting of the Council of the Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Kyrgyzstan where he also held meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Viladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit.
Ready for Kashmir referendum or plebiscite: PM Imran
Since becoming an SCO member in 2017, Pakistan has been actively participating at all levels in various moots including foreign affairs, defence, national security, economy and trade, science and technology, youth and women empowerment, tourism and media.
India is set to host the meeting of the council of heads of government of the SCO for the first time this year.
China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan are the member states of the SCO.
Tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours mounted last year in February, after a suicide bombing, carried out by a young Kashmiri, on an army convoy killed over 40 Indian troops, the deadliest single assault on its forces in three decades in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
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Tensions further escalated when the Modi government scrapped special status of the Himalayan valley in August last year.
Kashmiris see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.
Pakistan had strongly condemned the move and is “exercising all possible options to counter the illegal steps” taken by India.
Amid the unrelenting siege of Occupied Kashmir, PM Imran Khan said that Pakistan is ready for a referendum or a plebiscite in Kashmir.
He made the comments in an interview with Germany’s DW TV, which was aired on Thursday – the day when top civil and military leadership of Pakistan met in Islamabad to review the situation in the disputed territory.
A day earlier, the UN Security Council discussed the Kashmir situation for a second time since the revocation of its special status by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an attempt to take the disputed region off the table in any future talks with Pakistan.
(With additional input from News Desk)