Ahead of PM visit, Jaishankar goes to Tashkent

In a bid to prepare the groundwork for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Uzbekistan in September this year, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is travelling to Tashkent for two days, beginning Thursday, to attend a foreign ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and their Pakistan counterpart, Bilawal Bhutto, are also expected to attend the SCO meet.

There will be a window of opportunity for Jaishankar to hold bilateral meetings with some of his counterparts, including with China’s Wang and Russia’s Lavrov.

With Wang, the meeting is expected to take stock of the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, and the discussion with Lavrov is expected to revolve around defence and energy imports from Russia in the wake of the Ukraine war.

On Jaishankar’s visit, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated that the foreign ministers’ meeting will deliberate on the SCO summit scheduled for September 15-16 in Samarkand. “External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will visit Uzbekistan on July 28-29 at the invitation of Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Vladimir Norov, to take part in the meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers,” the MEA said in a statement. “The meeting will discuss preparations for the upcoming meeting of the Council of Heads of State on September 15-16 in Samarkand.”

The MEA stated that the foreign ministers will review ongoing cooperation in the expansion of the SCO and exchange ideas on regional and global developments of common concern.


Delhi’s deep interests in SCO

India became permanent member of SCO in 2017, and has deep interests 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. Jaishankar’s participation is aimed at strengthening Delhi’s ties with the grouping, especially in the context of the situation in Afghanistan.

Just before the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting, India on Monday attended a two-day conference hosted by Uzbekistan at its capital Tashkent to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Attended by about 20 countries, India was represented at the conference by Joint secretary, MEA (in charge of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) J P Singh.

India has been in touch with several leading powers on the situation in Afghanistan. Last month, New Delhi re-established its diplomatic presence in Kabul by deploying a “technical team” in its embassy in the Afghan capital. In the last few months, India has sent humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

In November last year, India had hosted a regional dialogue on the situation in the country that was attended by NSAs of Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — some of them being members of SCO.

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