In a significant development aimed at expanding the influence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin are set to participate in an online summit hosted by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The summit, to be held virtually, seeks to pave the way for SCO membership for Belarus as well as include Iran as a new member. Both countries currently have observer status and close ties with Moscow, making their membership important in broadening the group’s reach across Europe and Asia.
The SCO, founded in 2001 by China and Russia with the participation of former Soviet Central Asian states, later welcomed India and Pakistan as members. The political and security grouping of eight countries is known for its mission to counter Western influence in Eurasia. India’s role as the current chair of the SCO and G20 places it in a diplomatic bind, as it seeks to strengthen ties between Western countries and the Russia-China partnership amid geopolitical tensions arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s assertive global presence. balances.
Modi’s recent state visit to the United States, where he and US President Joe Biden reiterated their countries’ close partnership, added another layer of significance to the upcoming SCO summit. India’s refusal to blame Russia for the war and record-high purchases of Russian oil have drawn attention and concern from many Western capitals.
In preparation for the summit, Modi had an important conversation with Putin regarding ending the mercenary insurgency. During the conversation, Modi reiterated his call for dialogue and diplomacy regarding the conflict in Ukraine. The discussion marks India’s most direct interaction with a Russian leader on the matter, underscoring the complexity of their diplomatic dynamics.
The summit will see Modi and Xi meet again on a virtual platform for the first time since the G20 summit in Indonesia last November. Relations between India and China have been tense for more than three years, with an ongoing border standoff complicating their ties as the two nuclear-armed Asian giants.
Additionally, the online summit will facilitate a virtual meeting between Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Shehbaz Sharif, nearly 10 months after they attended the SCO summit in Uzbekistan. The meeting could be instrumental in addressing bilateral issues of their countries and promoting regional stability.
As SCO members gather online, they are expected to discuss a range of important topics including Afghanistan, terrorism, regional security, climate change and digital inclusion. The outcome of the summit could play a significant role in shaping the future of the Eurasian region and its relations with the rest of the world.