Pakistan's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari plans to attend a conference in India in May
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari plans to attend a conference in India in May AFP

Pakistan's foreign minister will attend an international conference in India next month, the first official visit by one of Islamabad's top diplomats since 2016.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will go to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers gathering in Goa from May 4-5, ministry spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told a briefing Thursday.

Islamabad suspended trade and diplomatic ties with India in 2019 when New Delhi imposed direct rule on the part of Muslim-majority Kashmir it controls and enforced a heavy security lockdown.

Both countries withdrew their top diplomats and several consular staff were expelled or withdrawn in tit-for-tat measures.

Although it is not clear if Bhutto will have any bilateral meetings with Indian officials on the sidelines of the SCO meeting, analysts said the visit was significant.

"Broader confidence-building measures are required to engage economically with India, but this is an important milestone in the history of Pakistan-India relations," said Qamar Cheema, an Islamabad-based analyst.

Relations between the nuclear-armed nations have been chilly at best ever since they were created out of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.

Their conflict over Kashmir has resulted in three full-fledged wars and numerous minor skirmishes.

The most recent visit to India by a high-ranking Pakistan diplomat was in 2016, when Sartaj Aziz -- then the senior adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs -- travelled to New Delhi.

India currently holds the rotating presidency of the SCO, which was established in 2001 and is considered a political, economic and security organisation to rival Western institutions.

"Our participation in the meeting reflects Pakistan's commitment to the SCO Charter and processes and the importance that Pakistan accords to the region in its foreign policy priorities," Baloch said.