India’s defence minister to hold bilateral meeting with Chinese counterpart on sidelines of SCO

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh

Prior to holding a significant summit of the organisation on Friday, the defence ministry stated on Tuesday that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) follows a strategy based on the values of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

On the margins of the SCO defence ministerial summit in Delhi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is anticipated to conduct bilateral discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu.

Days have passed since the 18th round of military negotiations between the Indian and Chinese militaries to resolve the three-year border dispute in eastern Ladakh. Singh and Li are currently having bilateral discussions.

Li, Sergei Shoigu of Russia’s defence ministry, and their counterparts from other SCO members—all save Khawaja Asif of Pakistan—are scheduled to attend the defence ministerial conference being hosted by India as part of its leadership of the influential alliance.

The SCO defence ministerial conference will focus heavily on issues relating to regional peace and security, the defence ministry stated in a statement.

It stated that “Secure SCO” will be the focus of India’s chairmanship of the organisation in 2023.

On the margins of the SCO summit, Singh will meet in private with the visiting defence ministers, according to the ministry.

Singh will serve as the SCO meeting’s chairperson.

“The defence ministers will discuss amongst other issues concerning regional peace and security, counter-terrorism efforts within SCO and an effective multilateralism,” the ministry said.

It said India attaches special importance to SCO in promoting multilateral, political, security, economic and people-to-people interactions in the region.

“The SCO pursues its policy based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, non-interference in internal affairs, equality of all member states and mutual understanding and respect for opinions of each of them,” it added.

The SCO defence ministers’ meeting is also expected to deliberate on the situation in Afghanistan.

The ministry said the ongoing engagement with SCO has helped India promote its relations with the countries in the region with which New Delhi shared civilisational linkages, and is considered its extended neighbourhood.

The SCO member countries are Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, India, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Apart from the member states, two observer countries Belarus and Iran will also be participating in the SCO defence ministers meeting.

People familiar with the matter said the Pakistan defence minister may attend the meeting through video conferencing.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Over the years, it has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations. India and Pakistan became permanent members in 2017.

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