- FMs meeting is a vital forum to finalise the agenda of the meeting of the Heads of State/PMs of the SCO Summit
By Shazia Anwer Cheema
The meeting of the Foreign Ministers of SCO member states has always been a very significant event held before the Head of State/Prime Ministers Summit. India being the host of the event this year could have utilised this opportunity to earn respect among SCO members by following the basic courtesy a host must show. However, India made the whole event bitter by launching a massive campaign against Pakistan, China, and CPEC — just to gain domestic mileage.
The post-event press conference of India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar would be remembered for how India treated its guests in Goa. As if allegations of terrorism against Pakistan were not enough to satisfy Indian domestic demands, Jaishankar accused China of being an “expansionist” and called CPEC an encroachment on Indian sovereign land. Since no country can raise bilateral conflicts at any of the SCO platforms, India did it outside the meeting and the Indian Foreign Office aligned with Indian media to abuse China and Pakistan.
The FMs meeting is a vital forum to finalise the agenda of the meeting of the Heads of State/PMs of the SCO Summit. The bad taste coming out of the meeting indicates that India wants to keep away Pakistan and maybe China from the Head of State/PMs Summit to be held in July 2023. I believe that Pakistan must not follow what India wants and PM Shehbaz Sharif must attend the forthcoming summit.
According to the SCO custom, the host country proposes the agenda in the light of recommendations of the previous SCO Summit, and member countries after deliberations agree upon the proposed agenda. However, nothing has yet to come out officially about the final SCO agenda for the July meeting where regional security, economic cooperation, peace, regional stability and Afghanistan would be on the final agenda.
Whatever happened before, during and after the Foreign Ministers meeting surely confirms India’s innate urge for maneuverability, and this can send a negative signal among member countries especially the founding members, China and Russia. With this desire for deep maneuverability, India is proposing SCO reforming agenda and wants to steer SCO just like SAARC. Remember the Indian hegemony has made SAARC practically dysfunctional.
I was closely observing the SCO FMs’ meeting of 4-5 May 2023 in Goa. By looking at the spectrum of the individual differences and bilateral issues, it became interesting to watch every move and India stands out in that — clearly forgetting the SCO frame of reference.
India by not using the word ‘Pakistan’ throws a volume of unsubstantiated allegations against Pakistan. This euphoria can be seen in political statements, in tweets and on mainstream media. Jaishankar’s statement that Pakistan is a facilitator of terrorism and should hand over the “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” overshadows the larger agenda. Had India not initiated that bad diplomatic linguistic and paralinguistic tone, it could have been a great opportunity for India to showcase the reciprocity which is much needed wherever India is involved.
The Indian government and Indian media highlighted Pakistan to the extent that it became the focus of the event. And with the noticeable sound and composed presence of Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, it made it even easier for Pakistan to display foresightedness which is a prerequisite for multilateral relationships. Bilawal summed up the entire Indian fiesta of “let us defame Pakistan” in his statement: “Let’s not get caught up in weaponizing terrorism for diplomatic scoring… The collective security of our people is our joint responsibility.”
India could have also set the diplomatic tone that Pakistan has set during SCO FMs deliberations and can nullify the hypothesis that India is incapacitated to operate in a multilateral situation. It was an SCO meeting, not a game show of throwing punches which of course gave the message to the world that SCO 2023 host country is not focused on issues encompassing larger sphere and broader goals and is trying to ruin SCO as it did to SAARC. India should remember SCO has giants like China and Russia and Indian desire for hegemonise SCO could only be a dream of a madman.
Note: The above article was originally published by The Express Tribune on May 15, 2023.