External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday evening hosted a gala reception for the foreign ministers of Russia, China, Pakistan and other member nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), marking the beginning of a two-day conclave of the grouping.
The main deliberations of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers will take place on Friday.
The reception at the sea-side Taj Exotica Resort in Benaulim was attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Uzbekistan’s Bakhtiyor Saidov and SCO Secretary General Zhang Ming.
The foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were also among those who joined the reception.
This evening’s cultural performance was an amalgamation of Indian classical and folk dance forms along with Bollywood dance styles, as a glimpse of Hindi cinema.
There was a special segment where representatives of the SCO countries showcased their dance performances.
India is hosting SCO conclave amid the escalating confrontation between Russia and the West over the war in Ukraine and concerns over China’s expansionist behaviour.
The overall situation in Afghanistan including apprehensions that the country may turn into a breeding ground for terrorism under the Taliban rule as well as the fast evolving regional security situation are expected to figure prominently during the deliberations on Friday.
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 NATO.
India is hosting the SCO conclave when its ties with China are under severe strain in view of the lingering border row in eastern Ladakh.
People familiar with the preparation of the conclave said the foreign ministers will deliberate on overall challenges facing the region in the backdrop of the current geo-political 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.
The SCO 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.