Strict Chinese Covid protocols rule out physical Modi-Xi meeting at SCO

Published on Jul 26, 2022 08:05 AM IST

The possibility of President Xi Jinping physically attending the SCO summit is close to nil as all the other heads of government and their delegations attending the Samarkand show will have to undergo elaborate Covid testing and quarantine procedures as per strict zero virus policy followed by China.

File photo of mass testing for coronavirus in China.
File photo of mass testing for coronavirus in China.

The strict and elaborate Covid-19 testing and quarantine procedures to be followed by all those who meet Chinese President Xi Jinping make the possibility of his attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand on September 15-16 very remote.

This means that there is little chance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi having a face-to-face meeting with the Chinese President on the sidelines of the SCO summit as India takes over the presidency of the multi-lateral organization from Uzbekistan this year.

In pursuance of the zero Covid policy, President Xi himself apparently had to undergo quarantine procedures after a Hong Kong legislator, who appeared in a group photo with the eternal leader, tested positive during the Chinese President first trip outside mainland China since the pandemic began. Although he was in Hong Kong and Macau for less than 24 hours on July 1, President Xi met only people who had undergone strict quarantine procedures.

While Indonesian President Joko Widodo today will become the first leader to meet Xi Jinping in two years to be received individually by Beijing apart from the February’s Winter Olympics, he had to test for Covid before he boarded the flight to China and was tested again after he landed in Beijing. His meetings with Chinese President are scheduled today only after his Covid results come out negative. Indonesia is presently holding the Presidency of the G-20 and is a key player in the Indo-Pacific with both autocratic China and the democratic world wooing the strategically located island nation.

Unless the SCO makes the unlikely exception for President Xi and enforces the rigorous testing schedule on all the attending leaders like PM Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Central Asian Republic leaders and Pakistan Prime Minister, the chances of President Xi attending the summit are very remote. The possibility of his meeting PM Modi or any other leader physically is ruled out as all those officials attending the meeting will have to undergo elaborate quarantine procedures before the dialogue on the sidelines of the summit.

According to diplomatic sources, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will attend the SCO Foreign Ministerial on July 28-29 in Samarkand and may meet his Indian counterpart, President Xi will make a virtual appearance at the SCO summit with some senior Chinese leader attending on his behalf. Since the Chinese regime virtually enforces near draconian measures by sealing building complexes and even cities to contain the virus, Chinese President cannot afford to make himself seen as above law and avoid quarantine procedures.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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