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SCO summit: India expects discussions on topical issues, expansion of grouping

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders at the SCO summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand on Friday that is set to deliberate on regional security challenges, boosting trade and energy supplies among other issues.

Modi is also expected to hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit, including with Putin, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev among other leaders. There is no confirmation over his possible bilateral with Xi.

“We will keep you fully apprised when the PM’s schedule of bilateral meetings unfolds,” Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Thursday at a media briefing here when asked if Modi and Xi will have a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit.

He also said the Prime Minister’s participation in the summit was a reflection of the importance that India attaches to the SCO and its goals.

The summit of the eight-nation influential grouping is taking place amid the growing geo-political turmoil largely triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s aggressive military posturing in the Taiwan Strait.

He said India expects that the discussions at the summit will cover topical regional and international issues, reforms and expansion of the SCO, the regional security situation and cooperation perspective. Strengthening connectivity as well as boosting trade and tourism in the region was also part of the agenda.

The foreign secretary said the duration of Modi’s visit to Samarkand will be around 24 hours and he will also hold some bilateral meetings.

According to reports in Russian and Iranian media, Modi is likely to hold separate bilateral meetings with Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

In a statement ahead of the visit, the Prime Minister said,”at the SCO Summit, I look forward to exchanging views on topical, regional and international issues, the expansion of SCO and further deepening of multifaceted and mutually beneficial cooperation within the Organisation.”

“Under the Uzbek chairship, a number of decisions for mutual cooperation are likely to be adopted in areas of trade, economy, culture and tourism,” he said.

Asked to comment on China’s growing influence over the SCO, Kwatra did not give a direct reply but said India remained focused on strengthening its linkages with central Asia and the extended neighbourhood.

The foreign secretary said the SCO is focused on regional cooperation and that India does not think it is about one country.

“We do not see it through the perspective of a third country”, he said.

Asked about Pakistan’s continued support to various terror groups contrary to the SCO’s vision for regional security, Kwatra said there are multiple ways to look at how different countries assess and look at the challenge of terrorism.

“If you look at the history of discussions on countering terrorism within the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, you will find that both substance of the discussions and the various structures of the SCO — their handling of this issue has evolved over a period of years,” he said.

“Now irrespective of what a particular country does on this problem of terrorism, there is deeply held, I would say, understanding and deep appreciation within the SCO countries of what the nature of the terrorism is, where the problem comes from and most importantly the need for SCO countries on their own as also the SCO structures including RATS to come together and form ways for practical cooperation,” he said.

Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of SCO (RATS SCO) is focused on addressing key security challenges in the region, including terrorism and extremism.

“This is something we have been focusing on since we took the chairship of the executive council of RATS,” he said.

Kwatra said the SCO-RATS structure has also decided to work towards creating a unified registrar of terrorists and extremist organisations whose activities are prohibited in the territories of the SCO member countries.

India assumed the chairmanship of the RATS-SCO from October 28, 2021 for a period of one year.

India has shown keen interest in deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure, which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.

The SCO summit in Samarkand will have two sessions — one restricted session which is only meant for the SCO member states and then there will be an extended session that is likely to see the participation of the observers and the special invitees of the chair country.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Over the years, it has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.

Iran is likely to be given the status of a permanent member of the SCO at the Samarkand summit.


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