Ukraine war, Xi and Putin on same table as PM Modi travels to Uzbekistan for SCO summit

The stage is set for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) first in-person summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on Thursday after two years, shaking Covid-19 fears and providing a rare opportunity for its eight heads of state to meet on the sidelines of the event for face-to-face talks on pressing global and regional issues of common concern.

The last in-person SCO summit was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in 2019. The 2020 Moscow summit was held virtually due to the pandemic, while the 2021 summit in Dushanbe was run in hybrid mode.

It is the first time after the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Pakistani counterpart Shehbaz Sharif as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will attend the two-day summit. The sudden announcement of Xi’s participation in the SCO summit, dismissing his concerns related to Covid-19, created a buzz.

News18 brings you an inside look at SCO and what the summit means for India:

First of all, what is the SCO?

The decision to establish the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was taken on June 15, 2001 by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of ‘Uzbekistan.

Initially, the SCO focused on mutual intra-regional efforts to counter terrorism, separatism and extremism in Central Asia. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter was signed at the St. Petersburg Summit of SCO Heads of State in June 2002 and entered into force on September 19, 2003.

Currently, eight countries enjoy the status of full members of the SCO: India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; four countries – Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia – have observer status with the SCO, and six countries – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka – have dialogue partner status.

How does the SCO work?

The Council of Heads of State (CSH) is the highest decision-making body of the SCO. It meets once a year to make decisions and give instructions on all important matters concerning the activity of the SCO.

The Council of Heads of Government (CGH) meets once a year to discuss a multilateral cooperation strategy and priority directions within the framework of the Organization, to resolve important and urgent cooperation problems in the economic and others, as well as to adopt the annual budget of the Organization.

PM Modi at SCO

The Foreign Office said the prime minister would likely hold “some bilateral meetings” on the sidelines of the summit, but gave no details.

Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters that President Vladimir Putin will discuss Russian-Indian cooperation in the UN and G20 with Prime Minister Modi during the SCO meeting.

“A conversation on the international agenda with Modi will also take place, the parties will discuss issues of strategic stability, the situation in the Asia-Pacific region and, of course, cooperation within major multilateral formats, such as the UN, the G20 and the SCO,” Ushakov said, Russian news agency TASS reported.

The China Factor

On Wednesday, Xi Jinping left China for the first time in more than two years, the PTI news agency reported. He traveled to Kazakhstan on his first state visit since January 2020, then traveled to neighboring Uzbekistan to attend the Samarkand summit. China has kept its agenda secret and has refused to confirm reports of Xi’s meetings with Putin and Modi on the sidelines.

The visit comes amid China’s sudden decision last week to accede to India’s request to withdraw its troops from the controversial Petrol Point 15 in Gogra and Hot Springs, which some say is a step forward. forward to end the military standoff in eastern Ladakh that began in May 2020, after which relations between the two countries fell apart. Following a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process last year on the northern and southern shores of Pangong Lake and in the Gogra area.

The withdrawal of PP-15 troops has sparked speculation about the likelihood of a Modi-Xi meeting in Samarkand. The SCO Samarkand summit will also mark the organization’s second recent expansion as Iran will be officially admitted to the influential Central Asian group after India and Pakistan were admitted as separate members. whole in 2017.

Modi and Jinping have met 18 times in the past nine years after Prime Minister Modi came to power in 2014. In the past nine years, Jinping has visited India three times, while Prime Minister Modi visited China five times.

The Pakistani angle

Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif does not plan to meet his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the SCO summit. “There are no plans to meet with the Prime Minister of India,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Asim Iftikhar told Dawn News.

An official said that while a brief courtesy meeting between the two was possible, they would not hold talks saying neither side had sought to meet.

Significance for Eurasia

Uzbekistan’s relevance has further increased in recent years as it is one of three Central Asian countries that shares borders with Afghanistan, which has become a huge security threat to India. and the region due to the large number of terrorist groups that have been provided a safe haven by the Taliban.

For Putin, the summit is an opportunity to establish his influence in Central Asia, which has been in decline since the start of the Ukrainian conflict. It will also be an opportunity for Putin and Xi to physically appear together to reaffirm their “limitless” partnership as announced on February 4 during the Beijing Winter Olympics. This would be important because their conflict with the United States and the West is much more open than it has ever been in the recent past.

Uzbekistan’s importance has also increased for the BRI due to the planned launch of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan rail link next year, as well as the Termez-Kabul-Peshawar rail line to connect to the China Economic Corridor. -Pakistan (CPEC).

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