KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan has clarified that there is no backdoor diplomacy with arch-rival India at the moment.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar told the upper house – the Senate – that there has been no back-channel diplomacy between the two nuclear-armed neighbors “untold to the rest of the world,” ever since the present government came to power in April last year.
“At this moment, there is no such thing underway,” she maintained.
The clarification came at the heels of New Delhi’s invitation to Islamabad for the upcoming session of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) slated to be held in Goa in May.
Pakistan has yet to respond to the invitation, which it says is a “common practice.”
Responding to a series of questions during a weekly briefing in the Capital Islamabad on Thursday, Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Mumtaz Zehra Baloch said: “Both Pakistan and India are members of the SCO. The SCO is an important transregional organization that aims to strengthen economic linkages and cooperation among its member states in different fields.”
India, she said, is holding the rotating chairmanship of the SCO Council of Heads of State for the year 2022-2023.
“Every year, SCO develops a calendar of activities, which include meetings of foreign ministers. In that capacity, the chair extends an invitation to all member states,” she maintained.
As in the past, she went on to say, these invitations are being processed “as per standard procedures and a decision will be taken in due course.”
Pakistan and India have long been embroiled in a slew of air and land disputes, primarily over the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, part of which remains under Indian occupation, which denies the Muslim majority of the region their right to self-determination.
Their frosty relations have already reached a new low following India’s repeal of Jammu and Kashmir’s long-standing ‘special status’ as an autonomous territory in August 2019.
Islamabad reiterates that normalizing relations with New Delhi is contingent on the review of the August 5 decision and the ultimate resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
However, the two neighbors agreed in 2021 to uphold the 2003 cease-fire along the Line of Control (LoC), a 724-kilometer (450-mile) military control line that divides the disputed Indian and Pakistani-governed parts of Kashmir.
The two sides have fought three full-fledged wars (in 1948, 1965, and 1971), two of which were over Kashmir.