India invites Pakistan's foreign minister Zardari for May meeting with China, Russia

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MUMBAI - India has invited Pakistan’s foreign minister to a meeting of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) that it is hosting in May, Indian media reported on Wednesday, signalling a possible thaw in relations between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The invitation came days after Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif called for talks with India over all outstanding issues, including the disputed Kashmir region.

Just a month ago, there were street protests in India over comments Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari made about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of United Nations Security Council meeting. India called Mr Zardari’s comments “uncivilised”.

Foreign ministry spokespersons for the two countries did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on the media reports that Mr Zardari had been invited to the SCO foreign ministers meeting being hosted in Goa.

The SCO comprises China, India, Russia, Pakistan and four Central Asian states.

According to the Indian Express newspaper the invitation was delivered by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

If Pakistan accepts, Mr Zardari would be its first foreign minister to visit India after a gap of nearly 12 years.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from British rule in 1947. The divided Himalayan region of Kashmir was the root cause of two of those wars.

India accuses Pakistan of stoking the decades-long insurgency in the mostly Muslim part of Kashmir under its control. Pakistan denies India’s accusation.

Tensions flared again in late 2019, when India unilaterally revoked the autonomous status of Kashmir. Mr Sharif said New Delhi’s actions resulted in “flagrant” human rights violations there.

Official talks between the two countries have been suspended since then, though there have been some attempts to resume negotiations through backdoor diplomacy.

The United Arab Emirates brokered the last attempt in 2021, and Mr Sharif has again sought its support to facilitate a revival of talks with India. REUTERS

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