New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the 21st meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State in virtual mode that will be held on Friday in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe in a hybrid format, New Delhi announced Wednesday. While Mr Modi will lead the Indian delegation and address the plenary session of the summit via a video link, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar will be physically present in Dushanbe, the MEA said. The SCO meeting will be chaired by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, and the situation in Afghanistan is expected to be the main focus, given the Tajik concerns over what is happening there under Taliban rule. Mr Modi is expected to raise the concerns of India and many other countries in the region that Afghan soil under the Taliban’s rule should not be used for staging terror attacks against other countries.
The predominantly Central Asian eight-nation SCO comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. At the meeting, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is also likely to participate and this will also be watched with keen interest in Dushanbe. Media reports have indicated that clear concerns have been already communicated by an enraged Tajik leadership to Islamabad, especially as Pakistan has made no secret of its backing for the Taliban. Mr Jaishankar’s presence in Dushanbe will also be a clear signal of solidarity with the Tajik leadership amid India’s close ties with that country. India maintains a strong bilateral strategic partnership with Tajikistan, amid rising anger in the Central Asian country over Pakistan’s alleged role in providing military support to the Taliban in launching the recent attack on the ethnic Tajik-dominated Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan.
In its statement, meanwhile, the MEA also said: “The SCO Summit will be attended by leaders of the SCO member states, observer states, the secretary-general of the SCO, executive director of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), the President of Turkmenistan and other invited guests. This is the first SCO Summit being held in a hybrid format and the fourth summit that India will participate as a full-fledged member of SCO. 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. Topical issues of regional and international importance are also expected to be discussed.”