PM Modi may hold bilateral talks with Putin, Raisi

The Prime Minister will reach Samarkand on September 15 for the SCO summit

September 14, 2022 11:26 am | Updated 11:28 pm IST - SAMARKAND

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to their meeting at Hyderabad house in New Delhi. File.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to their meeting at Hyderabad house in New Delhi. File. | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will land in Samarkand on Thursday ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit the next day and is also expected to hold bilateral meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the host Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

While diplomatic sources said Indian and Turkish officials were in touch over the possibility of a meeting with Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, officials have indicated that a “structured” meeting between Mr. Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping or Pakistan’s President Shahbaz Sharif was “unlikely” at present. More details of the Prime Minister’s engagements will be confirmed on Thursday morning, when Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra will brief the media ahead of the visit.

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“It is up to the leaders of countries to decide which other leaders they wish to speak on the sidelines of the summit,” said the Uzbekistan Coordinator of the SCO Rakhmatulla Nurimbetov, responding to a question from The Hindu about whether the host country was involved in facilitating the meetings. “But the Samarkand summit will be an opportunity for leaders who have not met since the COVID pandemic to spend time together,” he said.

Officials also said it was unclear whether Mr. Modi would attend a dinner meant for leaders gathered for the SCO meet, who include Mr. Xi and Mr. Sharif. While government sources declined to comment on whether the possibility of Mr. Modi missing the event indicated any “messaging”, the event was expected to be the first time he would have come face-to-face with the two leaders, neither of whom he has had any direct contact with in the past few years. The officials said Mr. Modi had a number of engagements in Delhi and would only leave for Samarkand in the “late afternoon”.

On Friday, Mr. Modi will attend the SCO main summit of eight members, who are also expected to induct Iran as the ninth member of the grouping. A second meeting of all the invitee leaders, including the leaders of Turkey, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mongolia will take place subsequently, after which all the leaders will hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines.

Mr. Modi is expected to include India’s pitch for Chabahar as a “connectivity hub” during his speech, as well as include veiled references on the need to respect territorial sovereignty and keep commitments on cross-border terrorism, meant for China and Pakistan respectively. India will take over as the chair of the SCO next year, and is likely to also promote a “constructive” agenda for the grouping, sources said.

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“India has a huge potential, is a growing Asian country which plays a crucial role in the region on international policy and the economy,” said Mr. Nurimbetov, answering a question on expectations from India’s tenure, and the summit to be hosted next year.

He also said that the SCO would reflect the “common position” of all SCO members on “economic restrictions practised in world politics”, a reference to recent sanctions against Russia and Belarus, as well as previous sanctions on Iran. The Samarkand declaration, to be released on Friday evening, would also push for an “inclusive government” in Afghanistan that would support the rights of women and girls. Mr. Nurimbetov said that while individual SCO members may have direct dealings with the Taliban regime in Kabul, the SCO as a multilateral organisation did not recognise it, and thus Afghanistan, which has observer status was not invited to this year’s SCO summit.

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