Against the backdrop of the growing scourge of terrorism in the region and the release of 26/11 terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed by a Pakistani court, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is set to press for enhanced counter-terror cooperation at the SCO summit in the Russian city of Sochi.Representing India for the first time since it became a permanent member of the annual SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), Mrs Swaraj is also expected to hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the SCO summit in the Russian picturesque city of Sochi. In June this year, India and Pakistan were elevated from being observer nations to full-fledged members of this regional grouping, which is currently dominated by China and Russia.
With regional security and terrorism expected to dominate the talks, it remains to be seen if India raises the issue of the recent release of Hafiz Saeed by a Pakistani court. The situation in the Gulf and Afghanistan are also likely to figure prominently in the talks. India’s membership gives it an added leverage to push for more intensive efforts at tackling regional and global terrorism and other security matters.“We attach special significance to the SCO in promoting political, economic and people-to-people contacts,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
The efforts to include India as a permanent member of the bloc had begun in Ufa in July 2015. While Russia was India’s main supporter, China had thrown its weight behind Pakistan. The SCO now has eight full members — India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — and six dialogue partners and four observers.
While there is no confirmation yet on whether Ms Swaraj will have bilateral meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang or Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, she will be attending restricted meeting of the heads of delegations on December 1, which will be followed by the preliminary sessions of the SCO.
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