The foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states met in Goa on Friday to discuss regional security matters, including adding Iran and Belarus to a union of nations seen as a counterweight to Western influence in Eurasia.
The SCO is a political and security union of countries spanning much of Eurasia, including China, India and Russia. Formed in 2001 by Russia, China and ex-Soviet states in Central Asia, the body has been expanded to include India and Pakistan.
The foreign ministers, including Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, and China’s Qin Gang prepared the ground for an SCO summit in India in July that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are expected to attend in person.
Iran and Belarus are expected to be inducted into the SCO at the New Delhi summit. Kuwait, Myanmar, the United Arab Emirates, and Maldives are likely to be included as dialogue partners, he added.
The foreign ministers also finalized a set of 15 decisions or proposals for the consideration of the grouping’s summit in July, covering areas such as trade, connectivity, health, culture, and counter-terrorism.
Ahead of the meeting, Jaishankar held bilateral meetings with Lavrov and Qin Gang. He also met Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov. No bilateral meeting took place between the Indian Foreign Minister and his Pakistani counterpart – even though the latter talked about meeting his counterparts over dinner where both he and Jaishankar would have come face to face.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been fraught for decades and they have fought three wars, two of them over the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.
India, which holds the chair of both the G20 major economies and the SCO this year, is treading a diplomatic tightrope as it faces Western criticism of its growing trade with Russia, which invaded Ukraine last year, amid its own tensions with China.