External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will represent India at the Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to be held on 21-22 May at Bishkek in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, it is understood.
This will be the last overseas engagement of the Narendra Modi government, which will take place a day before the announcement of results in the Lok Sabha elections currently underway.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is also scheduled to attend the meeting since India and Pakistan together became full-fledged members of the grouping in June 2017.
Sources, however, ruled out the possibility of a bilateral meeting between Swaraj and Qureshi on the sidelines of the SCO engagements. “There is no proposal for any bilateral talks with Pakistan at any level…the new government (in New Delhi) will take a call on talks with Pakistan,’’ sources said.
This would be the first time that the two ministers would be attending a multilateral meet together after their proposed meeting on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September last year was cancelled.
The foreign ministers’ meet is to be followed by the SCO Summit in mid-June at which India will be led by its new Prime Minister. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan too will attend the summit.
The SCO meet is expected to discuss at length the threat posed by terrorism to the international community. India has taken a very tough stand against Pakistan on the issue of terrorism in recent months, particularly after the Pulwama terror attack by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Masood Azhar, the JeM chief, was recently declared a global terrorist by the 1267 Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council after China lifted its technical hold on blacklisting the dreaded terrorist.
India has asked Pakistan to freeze funds and other assets and enforce a travel and arms embargo on Azhar now that he has been designated a global terrorist.