PM Narendra Modi will for the first time come face to face with Chinese President Xi Jinping, since the ongoing military standoff was reported in May this year, at the 20th SCO heads of state summit that will be held virtually on Tuesday.
Cross-border terrorism, Afghanistan, economic cooperation with focus on connectivity, energy and efforts to contain Covid-19 are among the issues on top of Modi’s agenda for the Eurasian group meeting that will be chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin and also see the participation of Pakistan PM Imran Khan.
While the meeting will be held virtually because of the global pandemic, it will still provide Modi an opportunity to reiterate in the presence of Xi the need for all to respect sovereignty and regional integrity and also to ensure transparency while pursuing connectivity initiatives. The virtual format though also means that the 2 leaders won’t be able to have a bilateral meeting, unlike when they met at the Bishkek SCO summit last year and discussed issues related to the border.
India and China remain locked in a tense standoff in eastern Ladakh and, while the situation seems to be calming down, efforts to arrive at a breakthrough in 8 rounds of talks for disengagement and de-escalation are yet to yield any result.
With Khan watching, Modi is also likely to call for action against countries who support terrorism. The last SCO summit saw Modi calling for an international conference to combat terrorism. Interestingly, while Khan has confirmed his participation for the summit that will be held by Russia on Tuesday, Islamabad is yet to convey to India who will represent Pakistan in the SCO heads of the government meeting that will be hosted virtually by India on November 30. India has invited Khan as per the SCO Charter but he’s likely to stay away, like with the Saarc Covid meeting hosted by Modi earlier this year, and ask instead one of his ministers to represent him.
Official sources said that apart from the Moscow Declaration on Tuesday, there will be SCO statements on issues like the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of World War II, digital economy, covid-19, countering the spread of terrorism, Including on the Internet, and drug threat.
“There will also be other decisions relating to major projects and initiatives in trade and economic sphere of activities. The report of the activities of the SCO Secretariat and the SCO RATS (Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure) will also be adopted,” said a source.
Afghanistan remains one of the major focus areas for SCO and with the country in the middle of another peace process, Modi is likely to reiterate India’s support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled inclusive peace process. A prompt resolution of the situation in Afghanistan is seen as essential by member states for enhancing peace and stability in the SCO space.
Modi has participated in all SCO heads of state summit since 2017, when India, and also Pakistan, became a full member of the group. The summit deals with all issues related to the group including political, security, trade, economic and cultural.
The annual heads of summit will be held for the first time in virtual format. Russia is the current Chair of SCO. Heads of states of all 8 member states – Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will be present in the meeting.