The SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Goa on May 4-5 will be pivotal in shaping the agenda of the SCO summit New Delhi will host on July 3-4, 2023. The meeting will be held at a time of unprecedented global turbulence and the escalating confrontation between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict. Ahead of the Goa meeting, Roman Babushkin, Deputy Chief of Mission, Russian embassy in New Delhi, spoke to Manish Chand, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, India and the World and Centre for Global India Insights, on Russia’s key priorities at the forthcoming meeting of SCO foreign ministers.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will participate in the meeting, which will be chaired by India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
(Excerpts from the interview)
Q) How do you look at India’s SCO presidency and points of convergence between India and Russia in SCO?
A) We see all the SCO member states as our close partners, and we are happy with India’s SCO presidency. We support the way India is positioning the SCO and is also making very important attempts to increase the profile of the organization and make it more strong and more reflective of the current situation. The increasing importance and profile of the SCO would serve the interests of all countries. And we are certainly on board on that. We are working together with India and other partners on bolstering SCO.
Q) How do you look at the proposed expansion of SCO? Do you think the expansion will make this organization more powerful and more effective? Or, will it dilute its effectiveness?
A) Certainly, we are of the opinion that the expansion of the organization illustrates very vividly the growing interest in the organization from other countries, which are seeking to join the organisation in various forms. So, there are ‘Observer States’, there are ‘Dialogue partners’, and some countries are seeking to get this status, which still don’t belong to the organization, but there is a big interest in the SCO. We consider this as a very important signal of the growing importance of the organization for the region.
Q) What are Russia’s views on enhancing efficacy and raising profile of the SCO? Does Russia have any specific ideas on how to do that? Are you working with the Indian presidency on this issue?
A) Discussion on this subject within SCO is still going on. At the summit in Samarkand, it was decided that there should be some dedicated discussion on that. Detailed dialogue on this issue has just started. Foreign Ministers will consider the progress in this regard. We expect that by the Delhi summit, some decisions would be already taken on further strengthening SCO.
Q) What is Russia’s perspective on the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan? What role can the SCO play on Afghanistan?
A) Russia is trying to get a better understanding of the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. We are working with SCO countries to shape the regional consensus on Afghanistan. The SCO consensus is crucially important in this regard. We don’t believe that any outside power can help unless the US and NATO members would ensure the compensation for the damage they did in Afghanistan. Russia also supports unfreezing of Afghani assets.
Q) Looking ahead to the meeting between Dr. Jaishankar and Mr. Lavrov, what do you think would be major issues from Russia’s point of view?
A) It is quite an interesting situation starting last year; our leadership has been in permanent contact with each other. Our leaders spoke five times, they met in person in Samarkand on the margins of the SCO summit, and the foreign ministers met five times during 2022. This year alone, our ministers are going to meet for the second time in Goa. Mr Lavrov attended the G20 ministerial meeting in March and also held bilateral talks with India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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