NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the margins of the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting this week with the trade war between China and the US and the impact of US sanctions on Iran expected to figure in the discussions.
There was, however, no confirmation of a meeting between Modi and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan who too will attend the SCO meet in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on 14 June. Modi’s 13-14 June visit to Bishkek for the 19th Summit of the SCO will be his first multilateral outing since assuming office for a second consecutive term on 30 May.
The SCO is a China-led eight-member economic and security bloc. Its founding members include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were admitted as members in 2017.
Besides attending the meet, Modi will also hold talks with Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Sharipovich Jeenbekov during the bilateral component of his visit to Bishkek, A. Gitesh Sarma, secretary (west) in the ministry of external affairs said.
For India, the SCO provides a “structured platform to engage with Central Asian countries," Sarma told reporters. Landlocked Central Asia has been difficult for India to access as the overland route passing through Pakistan is blocked due to tensions between the two countries. Bilateral trade volumes are far below potential due to the connectivity issues. India is now looking for an access route through Iran and is developing the Chabahar port for this purpose.
Sharma said the grouping represents 42% of global population, 22% of land area and 20% of global GDP.
Topics to be discussed under the SCO umbrella include counter-terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan, separatism and terrorism. “Prime Minister (Modi) when he makes his intervention will reflect the Indian concerns and priorities with respect to the SCO process," Sarma said.
India has been raising concerns over terrorism emanating from areas in its neighbourhood without naming Pakistan at various meetings of the SCO and Modi could do so again in his intervention, a person familiar with the development said. Ties between the two countries have been tense since the 14 February suicide attack in Pulwama in which at least 40 Indian security personnel were killed. Pakistan’s prime minister Khan has made many offers of talks to India, but New Delhi has been cold towards the overtures, demanding “irreversible" and “verifiable" steps by Islamabad to clamp down on terrorism. Foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar when asked said there is no meeting scheduled between Modi and Khan on the sidelines of the SCO meet.
Meanwhile, a news report by PTI from Beijing quoting a Chinese official on Monday said the SCO meet would discuss security and economy related issues with a focus on counter-terrorism.
“The establishment of the SCO is not to target any country but summit of this level would certainly pay attention to major international and regional issues," Chinese vice foreign minister Zhang Hanhui said in response to a question whether the summit would oppose the US’ trade frictions with China and other countries.