New Delhi: External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will represent India at the upcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the Russian city of Sochi. The SCO summit will be held on 30 November and 1 December and it is likely to discuss the regional security scenario besides several other issues.
In June, India along with Pakistan had become a full- fledged member of the SCO, a China-dominated security grouping which is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO. “We attach special significance to the SCO in promoting political, economic and people-to-people contacts," external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended the SCO summit in June in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan. The spokesperson said Swaraj will have bilateral meetings with several leaders on the sidelines of the summit. Asked whether she will have bilateral meetings with the Pakistan foreign minister or call on Chinese premier Li Keqiang, Kumar said her schedule is still being finalised.
“At this stage we cannot say anything," he said during a media briefing. On whether India will raise at the summit the issue of release of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed from house arrest and the larger challenge of terrorism, Kumar said India has been working with like-minded countries to deal with the menace.
He said Swaraj will reach Sochi on 29 November and return on 2 December. As an SCO member, India is expected to have a bigger say in pressing for concerted action in dealing with terrorism as well as on issues relating to security and defence in the region.
India’s membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was backed by China. India had been an observer at the SCO since 2005. It has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region. The SCO had set the ball rolling to make India a member of the bloc during its summit in Ufa, Russia, in July 2015.