Islamabad, 4 May 2023 (TDI): Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif, has praised the country’s decision to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting (CFM) in India, stating that it reflects Pakistan’s commitment to the SCO Charter and multilateralism.

In a statement released, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif emphasized that Pakistan is committed to playing its part in advancing shared values of peace and stability in the region. He further stated that Pakistan is all for win-win understandings based on connectivity, trade, and mutually advantageous cooperation.

About the arrival of Bilawal Bhutto in Goa for the SCO meeting

Notably, the visit by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to Goa, India, to attend the SCO foreign ministers meeting has become the first by a Pakistani foreign minister in nearly 12 years. Despite there being no official word of a bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart, Bhutto Zardari has expressed his intention to interact with his counterparts from SCO member states in Goa.

In a brief video message posted ahead of his departure from Pakistan, Bhutto Zardari stated that his visit to India sends a clear message of the importance attached to the SCO by Pakistan and how seriously it takes its membership. He added that he looks forward to engaging bilaterally with countries that are part of the organization.

Also Read: Watch: Foreign Minister Bilawal Video Message Before Leaving for India

For the information, Bhutto Zardari was received at the airport in Goa by Joint Secretary JP Singh, who heads the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk of the Indian external affairs ministry. He is also expected to attend a cultural event and dinner to be hosted by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar today, along with other SCO foreign ministers.

Moreover, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson has stated that Bhutto Zardari will “meet with his counterparts of friendly countries on the sidelines” of the SCO meeting. The spokesperson added that Pakistan continues to constructively contribute to all SCO activities to realize its multi-sectoral aims and objectives in a mutually beneficial manner.

Also Read: Pakistan Foreign Minister Visits India, Hope for Diplomatic Breakthrough

The SCO foreign ministers’ meeting in Goa is focused on boosting cooperation in security and trade. Bhutto Zardari’s attendance highlights Pakistan’s commitment to regional cooperation and multilateralism and is expected to pave the way for future engagements between India and Pakistan.

SCO: A glimpse

As a multilateral forum and regional organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was established in 2001 to counter terrorism, extremism, and separatism within the Eurasian region. Founding members, including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, China, Pakistan, and India, joined in 2017, and Iran is expected to become the ninth member in 2022.

Over the years, SCO has evolved and transformed from being a consultative mechanism to a full-scale interstate cooperation inter-regional organization. It covers 60% of the Eurasian landmass with a population of 3.2 billion and a quarter of the world’s global GDP, making it one of the largest regional organizations in the world.

SCO has eight permanent members, four observer states, and ten dialogue partner states, covering Asia, Europe, and Africa. The organization has made agreements with partner organizations, including the United Nations (UN), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It has also established relations with the League of Arab States.

SCO has significant strategic significance as it is home to four nuclear powers, namely Russia, China, India, and Pakistan. With Iran’s admittance to the organization, its geopolitical and geostrategic significance will increase manifold. The organization has an inter-regional business of about 20 trillion USD, which has expanded nearly 13 times since its inception. The total aggregate GDP within SCO member states is about 1/4th of the global economy, with an estimate that it will surpass nearly 30-40 percent of the global economic base.