Jaishankar to lead Indian delegation to SCO Summit – Hindustan Times

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The external affairs ministry formally announced on Tuesday that Jaishankar will the Indian side in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to skip the meeting

External affairs minister S Jaishankar will lead the Indian delegation to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit which is expected to frame a path for multilateral cooperation and discuss regional issues such as the situation in Afghanistan.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar. (ANI)

The 24th meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State, or the SCO Summit, will be hosted by Kazakhstan in Astana on July 4. The external affairs ministry formally announced on Tuesday that Jaishankar will the Indian side in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to skip the meeting.

“At the Summit, the leaders are expected to review the organisation’s activities over the past two decades and discuss the state and prospects of multilateral cooperation,” the ministry said in a statement. Topical issues of regional and international importance are also expected to be discussed, it said.

India’s priorities in the nine-member bloc are shaped by Modi’s vision of a “SECURE SCO”, the ministry said. SECURE stands for security, economic cooperation, connectivity, unity, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and environmental protection.

People familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that a range of economic, digital, and energy connectivity initiatives, trade, and regional issues such as the situation in Afghanistan following a surge in activities of the Islamic State are expected to figure in the discussions at the SCO Summit.

While Modi has decided to skip the meeting, the Indian side is understood to be looking at the possibility of him addressing the gathering by video, the people said.

Officials have said the prime minister’s preoccupation with the ongoing session of Parliament, which is set to end on July 3, was the key reason for his decision to skip the summit.

India’s strained ties with China were another factor for the decision, the people said. A visit to Astana would have brought Modi face-to-face with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at a time when India’s relations with both countries are at an all-time low.

While Jaishankar is expected to hold several bilateral meetings on the margins of the summit, especially with leaders of Central Asian states, there was no official word of any possible encounter with the Chinese and Pakistani sides.

India, under its first presidency of SCO, hosted the last SCO Summit in a virtual format on July 4, 2023.

Besides India and China, SCO includes Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The dialogue partners of the grouping include Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bahrain, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Turkiye.

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