Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari invited a senior Indian diplomat to the Iftar dinner (the breaking of the fast during the holy month of Ramzan)—a move that is being watched very carefully.
Notably, this is the first time that Pakistan’s Foreign Office invited an Indian envoy since August 2019—the day when India revoked the special status of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state.
According to the Express Tribune newspaper, Bilawal extended the invitation to the Indian chargé d’affaires along with the diplomats based in the Islamabad capital.
It is said that India accepted the invitation and its senior diplomat attended the dinner at the Foreign Office since the chargé d’affaires was not in Pakistan.
Indian and Pakistan officials have usually avoided each other inviting to such functions due to their acrimonious relationship—a trend that has only spiralled downwards post the Kashmir issue.
However, the presence of an Indian diplomat suggested a break from that policy. It comes at a time when India invited Pakistan’s foreign minister for the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet that will be held in southern Goa city in May. However, Pakistan has not sent its confirmation yet.
For three years Indian envoy wasn’t invited to the Iftar parties by the Pakistan government.
In 2020, Pakistan didn’t send invitations due to the Covid pandemic. In the following year, Pakistan’s then-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi didn’t invite the Indian diplomat. And in 2022, the political chaos which led to the ouster of Imran Khan saw no iftar parties being held.
2019 iftar party controversy
In 2019, a major controversy erupted after guests at the Iftar party at Indian High Commission in Islamabad were harassed by Pakistan security agencies.
According to reports, the Pakistani officials surrounded Hotel Serena, the venue of the Iftar party, and forced hundreds of guests to turn back.
India registered strong protests back then for the “gross intimidation”.
Following this, the guests of the Pakistani high commission in New Delhi at Iftar received somewhat similar treatment in a repeat of what happened during the Pakistan National Day celebrations in March.
(With inputs from agencies)
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