Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday called on leaders of the SCO member states, including Russia and China, to create trusted and resilient supply chains with full transit rights to offset energy as well as food crises sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic and Ukraine war. India took over the presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation at a summit in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand, which was its first in-person event after two years.
In a highly anticipated bilateral meeting, which was televised, Modi discussed his concerns over the Ukraine conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He told him that now was not the time for war, pressing the Kremlin chief to resolve the nearly seven-month conflict that began when Russia attacked its neighbour on February 24. Putin, too, reassured the prime minister regarding the war and said Russia wanted all of it to “end as soon as possible”.
China and Russia, whose growing intimacy despite a tempestuous past has raised eyebrows outside the region, looked to rally Asian leaders behind a new “international order” aimed at challenging western influence. But, concerns regarding the Ukraine war finally spilled out into the open. Locked in a confrontation with the West over the war, Putin has repeatedly said Russia is not isolated as it can look eastwards to China and India.
Prime Minister Modi and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, however, maintained a safe distance and there were no smiles and handshakes despite them sharing the stage at the SCO Summit. The two leaders came face-to-face for the first time since the border standoff in Galwan valley in June 2020, but Xi congratulated Modi on taking over the SCO presidency and said it will support India when it holds the next summit.
Apart from Putin, the PM held bilateral talks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Launched in Shanghai in June 2001, the SCO has eight full members, including its six founding members, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan joined as full members in 2017. Iran has been admitted as a permanent member of the SCO at the Samarkand summit.
Here’s a round-up of PM Modi’s action-packed schedule at the SCO Summit:
- On leaving the historic Silk Road city of Samarkand after attending the SCO summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Had productive multilateral and bilateral engagements at the SCO Summit. I thank the people and Government of Uzbekistan for their hospitality.” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said it was a “packed visit” for the PM who spoke to leaders of the member states on the sidelines on issues of regional peace, security and prosperity.
- Prime Minister Modi called on the SCO to create trusted and resilient supply chains between members of the grouping with full transit rights to expand connectivity. India said it supported “greater cooperation and mutual trust” among member states. In his remarks, the PM said the SCO, with almost 30% of the global GDP and 40% of the world’s population, has an important role to play in global economic recovery. “The SCO should strive to develop reliable, resilient and diversified supply chains in our region. For this, better connectivity will be required, as well as it will also be important that we all give full rights of transit to each other,” he said.
- Highlighting the fast-growing Indian economy, PM Modi said it was expected to grow by 7.5% this year and will be the highest among the world’s largest economies. “We are making progress on making India a manufacturing hub. India’s young and talented workforce makes us naturally competitive,” he said, adding, “India’s economy is expected to grow by 7.5% this year, which will be the highest among the world’s largest economies.”
- During his all-important bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Modi pressed him to end the Ukraine conflict soon by saying “today’s era is not of war”. The PM underlined the importance of “democracy, dialogue and diplomacy” while calling for an early cessation of hostilities in Ukraine. “Today the biggest worry before the world, especially developing countries, is food security, fuel security, fertilisers. We must find ways on these problems and you will also have to consider it. We will get an opportunity to talk about these issues,” Modi said in the first in-person meeting between them since the conflict began. “I know today’s era is not of war. We discussed this issue with you on phone several times, that democracy, diplomacy and dialogue touch the entire world. We will have the opportunity to talk today about how we can move forward on the road of peace in the coming days,” he added.
- Putin, on his part, reassured Modi that he was aware of India’s concerns and that Russia will do everything possible to end the Ukraine conflict as soon as possible. “I know about your position on the conflict in Ukraine. I know about your concerns. I know that you share these concerns and we all want an end to all of these as soon as possible,” the Russian president said.
- Modi described talks with Putin as “wonderful”. “Had a wonderful meeting with President Putin. We got the opportunity to discuss furthering India-Russia cooperation in sectors such as trade, energy, defence and more. We also discussed other bilateral and global issues,” he tweeted. During the meeting, Putin also said ties between India and Russia continued to develop “very rapidly”. “It is important that we constantly coordinate our positions,” he said, referring to an increase in bilateral trade turnover of the two countries.
- Modi also thanked Russia and Ukraine for facilitating the rescue of Indian students from different areas of Ukraine in the initial phase of the conflict while hailing the decades-old ties between India and Russia. “Ties between India and Russia have grown manifold. We give importance to the relationship as we have been friends who have stayed together for many decades and the world knows what Russia’s relations with India have been and what India’s relationship with Russia have been. The world knows that this is an unbreakable friendship,” the PM said.
- In a surprise addition to his packed schedule, PM Modi met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Met President @RTErdogan and reviewed the full range of bilateral relations between India and Turkey including ways to deepen economic linkages for the benefit of our people,” Modi tweeted. Ties between India and Turkey were strained in 2020 when the Turkish president, a close ally of Pakistan, referred to the Kashmir issue in his address at the UNGA session. India, in the past, termed his remarks as completely unacceptable saying Turkiye should learn to respect the sovereignty of other nations and reflect on its own policies more deeply.
- Modi met Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for the first time in person and discussed wide-ranging bilateral ties, reviewed the progress in the development of Chabahar Port and regional developments, including Afghanistan. Iran has been a key country for India in the Gulf region. Located in the Sistan-Balochistan province on Iran’s energy-rich southern coast, Chabahar port is being developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan to boost connectivity and trade ties. India has been in touch with Iran over developments in Afghanistan as well following its takeover by Taliban on August 15 last year.
- At PM Modi’s meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the two leaders discussed ways to deepen connectivity, trade and cultural cooperation. “Had a great meeting with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Thanked him for hosting the SCO Summit. Discussed ways to deepen connectivity, trade and cultural cooperation between India and Uzbekistan,” the PM tweeted. This is a special year for the two countries as it marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties. The two leaders spoke of cooperation in fields such as IT, healthcare, higher education. Regional issues, including Afghanistan, were also discussed. The PM also congratulated Mirziyoyev for organising the SCO Summit and Uzbekistan’s successful chairmanship.
(With agency inputs)