Counter-terror officials of Pakistan, Russia, China and four Central Asian countries met in Delhi on Monday at the start of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Regional Anti Terror Structure (SCO-RATS) talks, the first such event in India since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s transgressions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The meeting, which was closed off to the press, is one of a number of events planned this year as India assumed its role as Chairperson of the SCO-RATS mechanism.
In October this year, all member countries will send security force personnel for joint anti-terror exercises expected to be held at the NSG facility in Manesar. While India and Pakistan have close to no bilateral engagement, both countries make a point of attending the 9-nation SCO meetings, and last year India had sent a delegation to Pakistan to take part in last year’s edition of the SCO-RATS exercises. And all eyes will be on 2023, when India is due to host the SCO summit, which could see leaders of Pakistan and China participate, despite the tensions in bilateral ties.
The National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) under NSA Ajit Doval, that organised the meeting that included officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs declined to comment on the agenda and expected outcome of the meetings May 16-19. The Ambassador of Afghanistan, which has observer status said in tweets that he expected the meeting to “raise and propose solutions to all important issues related to the security situation in Afghanistan”.
India had in November hosted a special regional meeting of NSAs on countering threats emanating from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, which had included Russia and five Central Asian states. However China and Pakistan had declined the invitation then.
Meanwhile, India reacted sharply to a statement by the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, of which at least six of the countries participating in Monday’s SCO-RATS meetings are members, which had criticised the government’s proposed moves on delimitation of electoral constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We are dismayed that the OIC Secretariat has once again made unwarranted comments on the internal affairs of India,” said the MEA spokesperson in a statement “categorically rejecting” the 57-member groupings’ assertions.
“OIC should refrain from carrying out its communal agenda vis-à-vis India at the behest of one country,” the spokesperson added, in a veiled reference to Pakistan.
Earlier in the day the OIC General Secretariat had issued a statement of “deep concern” over what it called India’s attempts to redraw the electoral boundaries in Jammu and Kashmir, accusing India of “altering the demographic structure of the territory and violating the rights of the Kashmiri people.”
The OIC statement said the delimitation exercise contravenes the UN Security council’s resolutions on the dispute and the 4th Geneva Convention, which pertains to civilian protection in a war.