At a time of global turbulence in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s aggressive posturing over Taiwan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Samarkand in Uzbekistan Thursday night for the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
The Prime Minister’s flight landed around the time other SCO leaders were at a dinner hosted by Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev whose country is the current chair of the organisation. Modi was received at the airport in Samarkand by Uzbekistan Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov.
In a statement before leaving New Delhi, Modi, who will attend the summit Friday along with China President Xi Jinping, Russia President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Iran President Ebrahim Raisi, 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.
This is the first in-person SCO summit since the leaders gathered at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan in June 2019.
Sources said there are about 30 agreed documents on strengthening the multifaceted interaction between SCO member states and raising it to a new qualitative level.
The main final document of the summit will be the Samarkand Declaration which will reflect common approaches of the SCO countries to solving regional and global problems, and outline priorities for the development of the organisation, sources said.
Other key summit documents include the Comprehensive Plan for the Implementation of Treaty on Long-term Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation; Concept of Cooperation on the Development of Interconnectivity and Creation of Efficient Transport Corridors; Program for Stimulating Industrial Cooperation and Regulations on the honorary title of ‘Goodwill Ambassador of the SCO’.
The Prime Minister, who will be meeting President Mirziyoyev, said, “I fondly recall his visit to India in 2018. He also graced the Vibrant Gujarat Summit as Guest of Honour in 2019. In addition, I will hold bilateral meetings with some of the other leaders attending the summit.”
All eyes will be on a possible meeting with President Xi who will be in the conference room as well as the leaders’ lounge Friday. This assumes significance in the wake of the latest round of disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops at Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area of eastern Ladakh.
Modi has three scheduled bilateral meetings on the summit sidelines Friday afternoon — with Putin, Raisi and Mirziyoyev.
At a media briefing Thursday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said the Prime Minister’s participation in the summit was a reflection of the importance that India attaches to the SCO and its goals.
“We expect that the discussions during the summit would cover topical regional and international issues; reform and expansion of SCO; the security situation in the region; our cooperation perspective in the region including strengthening connectivity as well as boosting trade and tourism in the region,” he said.
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Asked about China’s growing influence over the SCO, Kwatra said India remained focused on strengthening its linkages with Central Asia and the extended neighbourhood.
“We believe that it is not central to any one country, but to the region. Every other country has its own perspective of cooperation with Central Asian countries. The perspective of India with Central Asian countries is complete in itself, and we do not assess it from the perspective of a third country outside the region,” he said.
The summit will have two sessions — a restricted session only meant for SCO member states and an extended session that is likely to see participation of observers and special invitees of the chair country.