SCO begins today: Modi to meet Putin, uncertainty regarding China
The 22nd Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit is set to commence on Friday in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at the Uzbek city on Thursday where he has a tight schedule including structured bilateral talks with the premiers of Russia, Uzbekistan, and the newest SCO member — Iran. The government hasn't confirmed if talks would be held with China's President Xi Jinping.
Why does this story matter?
- The SCO is the world's largest regional organization encompassing 60% of the land area in Europe and Asia, 40% of the global population, and 30% of the total GDP.
- The SCO has been dubbed anti-West, owing to the West's bitter relations with Russia, China, and Iran.
- Indian officials, however, continue to maintain that the SCO is not against any bloc or country.
Here is the schedule of the summit
The summit will kick off with a formal reception for leaders and a group photo. The leaders will then head to a restricted format meeting meant only for the member states, followed by an extended meeting session including observer countries and invitees. After lunch, PM Modi will hold meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and lastly, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Scenes from the ceremonial dinner on Thursday
The West is closely watching India-Russia relations
Trade and geopolitics are said to be the key issues that would be discussed, especially with Putin in light of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The West has been upset over India maintaining trade relations with Russia despite its sanctions. A year ago, India used to import 20,000 barrels of Russian oil per day, which now stands at 7,57,000 barrels per day.
PM Modi fondly remembers Mirziyoyev's visit to India
Remembering Mirziyoyev's visit to India in 2018 and his presence as the Guest of Honor at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in 2019, PM Modi said he looked forward to meeting him. Before leaving for Samarkand, PM Modi said he was keen on exchanging ideas on topical, regional, and international issues, the expansion of the SCO, and strengthening mutual cooperation within the SCO.
Ladakh disengagement for SCO accord: Reports
Although structured bilateral talks with China are unlikely, it was reported that a pull-aside was possible between the world leaders. Two days ago, India and China's troops completely disengaged at the Gogra Hotsprings PP15 in eastern Ladakh. Some media reports speculated that the disengagement came after PM Modi threatened to boycott the SCO Summit, following which Xi Jinping gave in.
India pushing for Chabahar port to counter China's BRI
Indian envoy to Uzbekistan, Ambassador Manish Prabhat said that connectivity would be one of the key discussions at the summit as the four central Asian members of the SCO are landlocked. As India opposes China's much-touted Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it is pushing for Chabahar port in Iran to be turned into an operational hub to connect India with central Asia.
What is the SCO?
The precursor to the SCO was the Shanghai Five — a mutual security agreement among China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan signed in 1996. In 2001, these nations, joined by Uzbekistan announced the formation of the SCO for deeper political and economic cooperation. India and Pakistan joined the organization in 2017 while observer country Belarus has applied for full membership.