Foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member countries will finalise in their deliberations on Friday a set of 15 decisions or proposals for the consideration of the grouping’s summit in July, people familiar with the matter said.
The proposals are aimed at expanding cooperation among the SCO member countries in the areas of trade, technology, commerce, security and socio-cultural ties. The SCO Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting at the sea-side Taj Exotica resort in Goa’s Benaulim will be chaired by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Uzbekistan’s Bakhtiyor Saidov are among those who have already arrived in Goa to attend the meeting.
The people cited above said Friday’s meeting is expected to finalise agreements for the inclusion of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Myanmar and the Maldives as dialogue partners in the SCO.
The process to admit Iran and Belarus as full members of the grouping is reaching its final stage, they said.
The people also said a proposal on the settlement of trade in national currencies by the SCO member countries is also part of the overall agenda of the grouping to boost cooperation.
The SCO foreign ministers are also expected to deliberate on pressing global issues, including the Ukraine crisis and the situation in Afghanistan.
“The most important work before the SCO foreign ministers will be to assess the status of the decisions that will be approved at the SCO summit in New Delhi in July,” Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Dammu Ravi told reporters.
“The meeting will also give an opportunity to discuss the state of multilateral cooperation in the SCO, regional and global issues of interest, reform and modernisation of the organisation and the progress of admitting Iran and Belarus to the SCO as new member states,” he said.
“As you are aware, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has articulated India’s priorities for the SCO chair with the theme of ‘Towards a SECURE SCO’,” Ravi said.
He said the acronym SECURE was given by Modi at the 2018 Qingdao summit of the SCO and it will lay down the main focus areas under India’s ongoing chairmanship.
SECURE stands for Security, Economic development, Connectivity, Unity, Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and Environmental protection.
Under its SCO presidency, India has hosted more than 100 meetings and events.
India is emerging as a key player among the SCO countries, though China and Russia are seen as the major drivers of the grouping that is increasingly seen as an “alternative” to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
India is hosting the SCO conclave when its ties with China are under severe strain in view of a lingering border row in eastern Ladakh.
People familiar with the preparations for the conclave said the foreign ministers will deliberate on the overall challenges facing the region in the backdrop of the current geopolitical turmoil and the state of bilateral ties between the member nations would not impact the discussions.
The SCO is an influential economic and security bloc and has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations.
It was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.
India was made an observer at the SCO in 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping, which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.
India has shown a keen interest 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.