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India has extended an invitation to Pakistan’s Defence Minister, Khawaja Asif, to attend a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in April, along with defense ministers from other member countries. India currently holds the chair of the eight-nation SCO, and the invitation to Asif follows a similar invitation to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister for an SCO foreign ministerial conclave in May. China’s Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, has also been invited for the conclave. Pakistan has not yet confirmed attendance for the meetings. The SCO member countries include Russia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

If Asif attends the meeting in person, it will be a rare occurrence of a Pakistan Defence Minister visiting India. The last such meeting happened when Pakistan’s President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visited India in 1972 and signed the Simla Agreement with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Historian Mandeep Bajwa noted that Pakistan’s Defence Minister usually has little influence in military affairs, which is why they rarely visit India. The last Pakistan Foreign Minister to visit India was Hina Rabbani Khar in 2011. The invitation to the Pakistan Defence Minister was sent through the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

India plans to invite Pakistan’s Prime Minister, China’s President Xi Jinping, and Russia’s President to the annual SCO summit later this year. The summit will be chaired by India’s Defence Minister and is expected to address issues related to terrorism, regional security, and the situation in Afghanistan. Past visits between Indian and Pakistani officials have occurred, including visits by the Food and Agriculture Minister in 1965 and the Governor General in the 1950s. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw also visited Pakistan post the 1971 war.

Relations between India and Pakistan have faced challenges, particularly after the Pulwama terror attack in 2019. However, efforts have been made to maintain peace, including a ceasefire announced by both armies in February 2021.

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