National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is expected to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan next week, which Pakistan’s NSA Moeed Yusuf will attend as well, officials in Delhi and Islamabad confirmed.
While the officials said no meeting had been scheduled between the two NSAs, the SCO meeting, of the “Secretaries of the Security Council”, comes months after India and Pakistan embarked on a series of decisions to defuse tensions, with a back-channel dialogue led by Mr. Doval and military officials in Pakistan, according to several reports, that have not been denied, beginning with the announcement of a ceasefire agreement at the Line of Control.
The NSA level meeting will be held on June 23, preceded by a Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) on June 22. In addition to other security concerns to be discussed, the security officials will set the course for the annual “Regional Anti-Terror Structure” (RATS) mechanism joint exercises by SCO member troops, to be held in Pakistan this year, where Indian troops are due to attend.
The participation of the Indian and Pakistani NSAs in person comes several months after a stormy encounter at last year’s SCO meeting in September 2020. Mr. Doval had walked out of the meeting after Mr. Yusuf, who was then the Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Security Affairs, had appeared with a map in the background that showed many parts of Indian territory, including Junagadh and J&K, as a part of Pakistani territory.
Since then, however, both sides have attended the SCO meetings, which include Russia, China, Central Asian States, India and Pakistan. The presence of senior security officials from India and China will also be watched closely, given the continuing standoff at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh between the Indian Army and the PLA troops.
Afghanistan and Iran, which are observer States, are not expected to attend this meeting.
Significantly, the SCO conference in Dushanbe comes just ahead of the Prime Minister’s All-Party Meeting of leaders of J&K, the first such outreach to mainstream politicians in the Union Territory, most of whom had been arrested and held in custody after the decision to amend Article 370 in August 2019.
According to a ‘blueprint’ reportedly discussed by Indian and Pakistani officials during the back-channel steps towards political normalisation in J&K, restoring its Statehood status was included in talks. Confirming details of the de-escalation talks over Kashmir, UAE envoy to the U.S. had also claimed that the UAE had mediated in talks between India and Pakistan, speaking in an interaction in the U.S. in April.