India to join SCO summit in Dushanbe today, Afghanistan affairs high on agenda
India will on Friday engage in the 21st meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which is being held in a hybrid format at the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead the Indian delegation and join the summit of heads of state virtually, minister of external affairs S Jaishankar—who is already present in the Tajik capital—will represent India at the summit. This is the fourth such summit where India will be participating as a full-fledged member of the SCO, and it assumes a special significance in light of the rapidly evolving situation in the war-torn land of Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.
Ahead of the SCO summit in Dushanbe, foreign minister Jaishankar met his counterparts from Iran, Armenia, and Uzbekistan on Friday and exchanged views on the ways to boost bilateral ties and the recent developments in Afghanistan. Tweeting from his official handle after the meetings, Jaishankar indicated that the leaders “positively reviewed” the strengthening of bilateral cooperation, as well as discussed the Afghanistan situation and challenges of combating terrorism and fundamentalism.
Now, Modi will participate virtually in the key SCO summit on Friday and take forward the talks on the recent developments in Afghanistan as well as the overall regional security scenario. Jaishankar will on the same day represent India at a meeting on Afghanistan with the heads of state of SCO and the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (SCTO).
The joint meetings are expected to provide India with the opportunity to examine closely the situation in Afghanistan, especially in light of concerns about the military establishment in Pakistan and its ties with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. India will also discuss counter-terrorism, economic cooperation, people-to-people exchanges, and other topical issues of regional and international importance, according to people familiar with the development.
The SCO, seen as a counterweight to Nato, is an eight-member economic and security bloc and has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations. It was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017. India was also made an observer at the SCO in 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.