Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for Samarkand in Uzbekistan on Thursday evening for the 2022 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, where it is confirmed he will be holding a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the multilateral summit.
“A conversation on international agenda with Modi will also take place, the sides will discuss issues of strategic stability, the situation in the Asia Pacific Region, and, of course, cooperation within major multilateral formats, such as the UN, the G20 and the SCO,” Ushakov said, according to Russian news agency TASS reported.
It remains to be seen whether their will be a bilateral meeting between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Both sides have chosen to neither confirm nor explicitly deny whether such a meeting is planned.
Notably, India and China just completed a mutual disengagement and troop withdrawal from the Gogra-Hot Springs sector of the disputed Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
Balancing act for India
India is something of an outlier in the SCO — the forum’s two heavyweights, Russia and China, are both adversaries of the United States, with which India has forged an increasingly close partnership.
India, which shares a tense and disputed border with China, has increasingly come to see Beijing as it’s foremost geopolitical foe. However, New Delhi shares a historically close relationship with Russia, and has refused to join Western sanctions against Moscow for the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.
New Delhi seeks to retain close ties to Russia, in order to avoid making Moscow feel isolated, and therefore inclined to further drift into Beijing’s orbit. However, being seen as too close to Russia is likely to attract the ire of the US, which is an extremely important partner for India.
Not helping matters is the fact that Iran, another foe of the US, is also attending the summit, and is set to join the SCO as a member. Therefore, New Delhi will be keen to avoid being seen as growing close to Washington’s enemies.
It’s a delicate balancing act.
As Manish Prabhat, India’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan, told to NDTV, “India is very clear that the SCO is not an organisation which is against any other bloc of countries or any other country. The SCO is a venture for constructive cooperation and peace and stability in the world. There could be concerns of different countries on various kinds of issues, but the forum is there to talk about these issues.”