In May 2023, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari became the first Pakistani foreign minister to visit India in 12 years when he landed in Goa to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Bhutto’s visit to India was seen as an opportunity for both countries to improve their bilateral relations and address long-standing issues. The SCO meeting provided a forum for the two countries to engage in diplomatic dialogue. During his visit, Bhutto met with his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister Jayshankar, and other senior officials to discuss a range of issues, including the Kashmir dispute and terrorism.
The visit was met with mixed reactions in both Pakistan and India. While many hailed the visit as a positive step towards reducing tensions between the two countries, some critics accused Bhutto of being too conciliatory towards India and not doing enough to promote Pakistan’s interests. On the other hand, some in India criticized the government for allowing a Pakistani official to visit while tensions between the two countries were still high. There were also concerns about security and the potential for terrorist attacks during Bhutto’s visit. The Indian government took appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the Pakistani delegation.
After the visit, the Indian government and media had mixed reactions. External Affairs Minister Jayshankar criticized Bhutto’s comments on Kashmir and terrorism, stating that he had attempted to justify terrorism during the SCO meeting. He further added that “good guest for a good host” was the principle that both countries should follow. In response, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari accused India of having ‘a sense of insecurity’. He further said he had succeeded in “countering the false narrative” of Narendra Modi’s government that every Muslim was a terror suspect and exposing Delhi’s history of defiance of bilateral and international agreements.
Overall, Bhutto’s visit did not result in any major breakthrough in the India-Pakistan relationship, but it was seen as a missed opportunity for both countries to address key issues. It is important to note that the India-Pakistan relationship is complex and multifaceted. While the two countries share a long and often contentious history, there have been moments of cooperation and dialogue. The SCO meeting provided an opportunity for both countries to engage in diplomatic dialogue and find common ground. However, it is also important to acknowledge that there are powerful forces on both sides that benefit from perpetuating the conflict and hindering any attempts at reconciliation.
Moving forward, it is crucial for both India and Pakistan to continue to engage in dialogue and find ways to address the underlying issues that have strained their relationship. While the road to reconciliation will be long and difficult, it is important for both countries to take steps towards peace and stability in the region. Only by working together can India and Pakistan find a way to move beyond their troubled past and build a more peaceful and prosperous future.