India welcomes Iran at the SCO meet, addresses Afghanistan food crisis

As in previous meetings, New Delhi focused on countering radicalism and terrorism. Issues concerning Afghanistan were also discussed in the forum.

India welcomes Iran at the SCO meet, addresses Afghanistan food crisis

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers’ meet in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, India on Friday highlighted the importance of joint efforts in confronting global and regional challenges and expanding the forum. At the meet, India also welcomed Iran’s entry into the SCO which is expected to influence the group’s influence on the world market.

As in previous meetings, New Delhi focused on countering radicalism and terrorism. Issues concerning Afghanistan were also discussed in the forum.

Importance of SCO

“New Delhi considers SCO to be an essential organisation for several reasons: first, it provides India with a platform to participate in the deliberation of security in Eurasia; second, terrorism is a threat common to most of the states of this bloc; third, India is keen to develop connectivity and transport networks with Central Asia and Afghanistan; fourth, India can play a role in Afghanistan through this organisation; and finally, this organisation facilitates economic and cultural cooperation among the member states,” Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU, tells Financial Express Online.

Agenda of the meet

The member nations reviewed the joint work done during the presidency of the SCO under the Uzbek government and also discussed the agenda for the forthcoming Summit in September this year.

They also talked about the prospects for further development of the SCO and multilateral cooperation, issues related to international and regional importance.

Iran joins SCO

On Iran joining the grouping, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar while attending the meeting said: “The entry of Iran will strengthen the SCO forum as now all the member-nations will have the opportunity to use the facilities of the Chabahar Port in Iran.” Highlighting India’s humanitarian assistance to war torn Afghanistan to fight hunger and food crisis, he urged the SCO members to help in combating the crisis.

India sends assistance to Afghanistan

Talking about assistance to Afghanistan, the minister said “Already 40,000 tons of wheat, 500,000 doses of vaccines have been delivered. We have also delivered clothing and emergency supplies to the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul.”

Who all attended?

At the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, Kazakhstan foreign minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi and Tajik foreign minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto, and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, were among the other attendees. And, the SCO general secretary Zhang Min and director of the executive committee of the SCO regional anti-terrorism structure Ruslan Mirzaev. They all were received by Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

This was the first time that Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto shared the stage with external affairs minister Dr Jaishankar in person after the Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition ousted former PM Imran Khan.

India-Kazakhstan

On the sidelines of the SCO meeting, Dr Jaishankar had a bilateral meeting with Deputy PM and minister of foreign affairs Mukhtar Tileuberdi of Kazakhstan. And the two sides reviewed the bilateral cooperation across all domains.

Expert View

Sharing his views Prof Rajan Kumar, said, “The SCO Ministers’ meeting at Tashkent is a precursor to the upcoming SCO summit in mid-September 2022. The SCO summit focuses on promoting regional peace, security and stability. Central Asian states are concerned about growing radicalism and terrorism in Afghanistan. There is a genuine fear that radicalism and terrorism from Afghanistan may spill over to Central Asia, which in turn may jeopardise the security of the Eurasian region. The SCO is the most comprehensive organisation to tackle the security issue in Eurasia, but its role has remained limited until now.”

At such a forum are bilateral issues discussed?

No. According to Prof Rajan “Bilateral issues are deliberately avoided at the SCO summit. Therefore, India’s border conflicts with China are unlikely to figure on the agenda. However, if the two parties mutually decide, they can hold separate bilateral talks on the sidelines. But one should not expect the SCO to play a role in resolving New Delhi’s issues with either Beijing or Islamabad.”

Further, “since the SCO is a regional security organisation, the issue of the Russia-Ukraine crisis will not constitute the main agenda of discussion. The SCO members are sympathetic to Moscow and have refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They consider NATO’s expansion responsible for the onset of the crisis in Ukraine. These states are opposed to sanctions imposed by the West,” he opined.

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