New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead the Indian delegation virtually at the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to be held in Tajik capital city of Dushanbe on September 17, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Wednesday.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will travel to Dushanbe for the SCO meetings that are expected to extensively deliberate on the Afghan crisis and its internal as well as external implications, people familiar with the matter said.
"The 21st meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State will be held on September 17 in Dushanbe in a hybrid format. The meeting will be chaired by the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead the Indian delegation and address the plenary session of the summit via video-link," the MEA said.
"At Dushanbe, India will be represented by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar," it said in a statement.
The MEA said the summit will be attended by the leaders of the SCO member states, observer states, secretary general of the SCO, executive director of the SCO regional anti-terrorist structure, the president of Turkmenistan and other invited guests.
In Dushanbe, Jaishankar will attend a meeting on Afghanistan of the heads of state of the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, the people cited above said.
It will be the first SCO summit being held in a hybrid format and the fourth summit that India will participate in as a full-fledged member of the bloc.
"This summit assumes significance as the organisation is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. 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 future cooperation," the MEA said.
It said topical issues of regional and international importance are also expected to be discussed.
Jaishankar is also likely to hold a series of bilateral meetings at the Tajik capital city with his counterparts from Iran and Tajikistan among others.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi are expected to be in Dushanbe for the SCO meetings.
Earlier this month, Jaishankar spoke to his newly appointed Iranian counterpart and discussed the situation in Afghanistan as well as bilateral issues.
The SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO, is an eight-member economic and security bloc and has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.
The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
India has shown keen interest in deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its regional anti-terrorism structure (RATS), which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.
India was made an observer at the SCO in 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping, which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.