Pakistan's chief justice to skip SCO meeting in India

Pakistan has decided to stay away from the meeting of chief justices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which is scheduled to take place in New Delhi from March 10 to 12.

India is the current president of the SCO, which also comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. As president of the regional forum, India is set to host a series of events, including the meeting of chief justices of the member states.

India extended the invitation to the Pakistani chief justice, but Islamabad took the decision at the last minute about the country’s top adjudicator.

“As one of the active members of the SCO, Pakistan regularly participates in all SCO activities and constructively contributes to their outcomes,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said in a statement here on Thursday.

“Due to his unavoidable commitments on the scheduled meeting dates, the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan will not be able to participate in the SCO meeting of the Chief Justices of the Supreme Courts scheduled from 10-12 March, 2023. He has accordingly conveyed his regrets to his Indian counterpart, who is the current chair/host of the meeting,” the statement added.

Also read: Pakistan in no hurry on India’s SCO invite

Though the Foreign Office statement cited unavoidable commitments of the chief justice, observers believe that the current state of relationship between Pakistan and India played a part in Islamabad’s decision.

India has also invited Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for the SCO foreign ministers meeting to be held in Goa in May this year. Pakistan has yet to decide whether the foreign minister will attend.

“Regarding participation in the upcoming SCO Council of Foreign Ministers, as I have said earlier, the matter is under consideration and, as and when this decision is taken, we will share it with everyone,” she told reporters at the weekly news briefing.

India will also host the SCO summit meeting this year. It remains to be seen whether Pakistan will send its foreign minister in May or if the prime minister will join the SCO leaders later in India.

Meanwhile, following the recent counter-terrorism dialogue, the spokesperson said two important dialogues will be held between Pakistan and the United States. “These include the Energy Security Dialogue and the Climate and Environment Working Group to be held in Islamabad,” she said.

The Energy Security Dialogue is scheduled for March 15. Assistant Secretary of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources, Geoffery Pyatt, will lead the US delegation. The secretaries of the Power and Petroleum divisions will lead from the Pakistan side.

During the dialogue, discussions will be held on energy priorities, advancing the renewable energy transition, and economic and commercial opportunities in the energy sector.

Also read: Pakistan again says no ‘backchannel’ talks with India

The Climate and Environment Working Group meeting is scheduled for March 16.  Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OEC) Monica Madina will lead the American delegation.

The two sides will discuss Pakistan’s climate priorities and energy transition, water management, climate smart agriculture, biodiversity and protected national areas, air quality, and solid waste management.

This will be the second round for the Energy Security Dialogue and the Climate and Environment Working Group. The first rounds were held virtually in September 2021.

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