Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: View: PM Modi’s Samarkand remarks were carefully crafted

Prime Minister Modi’s attendance at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand should be placed in the context of the group’s various geopolitical dimensions affecting India’s strategic interests: stability in landlocked Central Asia, Russia and China competing there, Central Asian seekers States India’s increased presence, religious extremism and terrorism in the region (particularly from Afghanistan), China’s Belt and Road penetration, Iran’s membership, the potential inclusion of Afghanistan, and now Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar as new dialogue partners.

The goal of the SCO, as a non-Western bloc, is also to promote multipolarity. Our membership reflects our own commitment to a multipolar world. As a bridge between the democratic and the “autocratic” world, we bring a special value to the organization. Our strengthening of ties with the West is not intended to maintain its hegemony, which is why we are joining forces with other power centers to maintain a global balance of power that suits our interests.

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The summit took place when Russia intervened in Ukraine, China intervened in Ladakh, relations between the US and both Russia and China deteriorated sharply, our own relations with the US improved greatly, but both they and Europe were dissatisfied with our reluctance are to be blamed on Russia in Ukraine.

All of this required carefully balanced diplomacy in Samarkand, and Prime Minister Modi framed his remarks at the summit accordingly. He made no mention of multipolarity, terrorism, or security issues in general. He raised the Ukraine issue in the context of the disruption in global supply chains causing an unprecedented energy and food crisis. Stressing the need to develop reliable, resilient and diversified supply chains in our region, which would require better connectivity, he stated that “we all grant each other full rights of transit”, implicitly pointing to Pakistan’s failure alert in this regard.

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China’s aggression against India undermines SCO principles, particularly the claim that the organization takes a better approach than the West to interstate relations based on equality. A Modi Xi meeting did not take place because China would have played into the hands of a premature meeting without a willingness to de-escalate.

With President Putin, PM Modi referred to the biggest problem facing the world and especially developing countries, food and fuel security and fertilizers, for which a way out must be found and for which Russia will also have to find its way and take the initiative. He said he knew today was not an age of war and had previously spoken to Putin about the world being sensitive to dialogue and diplomacy.

A way to peace would have to be found. These general remarks, made to convey that India, while unwilling to condemn Russia, was actively working to end the conflict, were by no means a “rebuke” to Putin, as Western commentators impishly propagated . Putin’s own previous opening remark that he was aware of Modi’s “position on the conflict in Ukraine, your concerns that you constantly express” confirms this.

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Putin’s remarks were unusually rambling, mentioning Modi’s birthday, fondly recalling his visit to New Delhi in December 2021, inviting Modi to visit Russia, noting that Russian fertilizer shipments to India have increased eightfold that large Joint projects in the oil and gas sector and nuclear power have been consistently implemented, citing the Russian people’s keen interest in India’s rich history and ancient culture in support of visa-free tourist travel.

Modi himself subsequently described his behind-closed-doors meeting with Putin as “wonderful,” with a discussion on boosting bilateral cooperation in trade, energy, defense and other areas summing it all up.

The author is a former Secretary of State

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