PM Modi arrives in Samarkand for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting, skips photo op...

PM Modi arrives in Samarkand for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting, skips photo ops

Friday will mark Modi’s first face-to-face meeting with Xi since April 2020 LAC stand-off

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Samarkand late on Thursday evening, just ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Head of States meeting, where he will come face-to-face with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since the April 2020 LAC stand-off, as well as Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.  

Mr. Modi was the last of the leaders of eight SCO members and seven invitees to arrive here, and missed both the Pre-Summit dinner hosted by Uzbekistan President Shovkat Mirziyoyev and tree-planting ceremony that all the leaders other than President Xi undertook, leading to speculation that Mr. Modi’s late arrival was meant to avoid any inconvenient “photo-ops” while relations with China and Pakistan remain tense.

Watch | What does India hope to achieve at the SCO Summit?

Mr. Modi’s absence was felt particularly as other leaders held a number of bilateral meetings on Thursday, including a highly anticipated meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since the war in Ukraine began. Mr. Xi held eight bilateral meetings in all and Mr. Putin met with six other leaders, including Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Meanwhile, Mr. Sharif, who is at the SCO seeking support over the flood situation in Pakistan, held seven bilateral meetings. 

On Friday, Mr. Modi will hold three bilateral meetings, with Mr. Putin, Mr. Mirziyoyev and Mr. Raisi, the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed.

The strong showing by Mr. Putin, who is accompanied by a large delegation in Uzbekistan, is expected to display confidence, and dispel Western narratives on challenges he faces in the Ukraine war. In addition, SCO countries attending are expected to express disapproval for “economic restrictions” or unilateral sanctions and plans for an “oil price cap” imposed by the U.S. and EU. 

At a briefing on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that “India is not a member of the G7” when asked if India would join the oil price cap mechanism plan announced by G7 countries on September 2nd. “On the price cap coalition well, what form it takes, what shape it evolves into is something the countries that have floated that idea perhaps can better answer to that,” Mr. Kwatra said. 

On Friday, SCO members, which include four Central Asian countries, China, Russia, India and Pakistan, are expected to agree to include Iran into the Eurasian grouping, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who is an invitee here, will formally join as a member at the next SCO summit due to be held in India in 2023. During his address, Mr. Modi is expected to focus on connectivity via Iran’s Chabahar port, as well as on the need for security and territorial integrity in the region, and on cross-border terrorism. 

“At the SCO Summit, I look forward to exchanging views on topical, regional and international issues, the expansion of SCO and on further deepening of multifaceted and mutually beneficial cooperation within the Organization. Under the Uzbek Chairship, a number of decisions for mutual cooperation are likely to be adopted in areas of trade, economy, culture and tourism,” Mr. Modi stated before leaving Delhi.

The induction of Iran is one of a number of agreements expected to be announced along with the “Samarkand Declaration” signed by the eight members of the group. The grouping will also grant “dialogue partner” status to Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, an indicator that the Central and South Asian grouping is attempting to include West Asia in its discussions as well. The expansion of the grouping and its dialogue partners marks a “breakthrough” for the SCO, said national coordinator of the SCO from Uzbekistan, Rakhmatulla Nurimbetov, who will next hand over to Indian officials, as India takes over the SCO Chair for the next year.  

In addition, an agreement “on good neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation”, and a separate joint statement on the “Response to climate change” made especially in the context of the flood situation in Pakistan, are also expected to be released among 30 documents in total.

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