(CTN NEWS) – President Vladimir Putin is set to engage in his inaugural multilateral summit this week following a recent armed uprising in Russia.
This summit holds significance as it represents a unique international alliance where Russia continues to receive support.
Virtual Gathering: India Hosts Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, Showcasing Growing Global Influence
Leaders will gather virtually on Tuesday for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, a security coalition established by Russia and China to counter Western alliances spanning from East Asia to the Indian Ocean.
India, having joined the organization in 2017, assumes the role of host for this year’s summit. It provides Prime Minister Narendra Modi with another opportunity to demonstrate India’s escalating global influence.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has primarily focused on enhancing security and economic cooperation, combating terrorism and drug trafficking, addressing climate change, and discussing the situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover in 2021.
While the recent public remarks of foreign ministers during their meeting in India scarcely touched upon Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, analysts suggest that the repercussions on developing nations concerning food and fuel security remain a concern for the group.
This forum holds significant importance for Moscow, as it seeks to demonstrate that it has not been isolated by the West.
The SCO includes Central Asian nations such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, where Russian influence runs deep.
Other members comprise Pakistan (since 2017) and Iran (set to join on Tuesday), while Belarus is also in line for membership.
“This SCO meeting is really one of the few opportunities globally that Putin will have to project strength and credibility,” remarked Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute.
None of the member countries have condemned Russia through United Nations resolutions; instead, they have chosen to abstain.
China has dispatched an envoy to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, while India has consistently called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
For President Putin, the summit offers an opportunity to demonstrate his control after a brief insurrection led by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
“Putin will want to reassure his partners that he is very much still in charge, and leave no doubt that the challenges to his government have been crushed,” said Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Online Format for SCO Summit: India’s Decision to Avoid Complications with Recent State Visits
India announced that the summit would be held online instead of in-person like last year in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where Putin engaged in photo opportunities and dined with other leaders.
Hosting both Putin and China’s leader Xi Jinping just two weeks after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grand state visit by U.S. President Joe Biden would not have been ideal for New Delhi, considering the recent attention it received from American leaders.
India’s relationship with Moscow has remained strong throughout the conflict, with increased purchases of Russian crude and reliance on Moscow for 60% of its defense hardware.
Simultaneously, the U.S. and its allies have actively courted India, seeing it as a counterweight to China’s expanding ambitions.
Balancing ties with the West and the East is a key priority for India in the forum, particularly as it will also host the Group of 20 (G20) summit in September.
It also provides an opportunity for New Delhi to engage more deeply with Central Asia.
“India glorifies in this type of foreign policy where it’s wheeling and dealing with everybody at the same time,” noted Derek Grossman, an Indo-Pacific analyst at the RAND Corporation.
Observers suggest that New Delhi will prioritize securing its own interests at the summit.
This may involve emphasizing the need to combat “cross-border terrorism,” which indirectly refers to Pakistan, accused by India of arming and training rebels seeking independence for Indian-controlled Kashmir or integration into Pakistan (a charge Islamabad denies).
Additionally, India may stress the importance of respecting territorial integrity and sovereignty, often directed towards its rival, China, with whom it has been involved in a tense standoff along their disputed border in the eastern Ladakh region for the past three years.
China’s Ascending Role in the SCO and Growing Interest in Full Membership
Analysts argue that China, aspiring to position itself as a global power, is increasingly becoming a dominant player in forums like the SCO, where interest in full membership has grown among countries such as Myanmar, Turkey, and Afghanistan in recent years.
“The limitation with the SCO is that China and Russia are trying to turn it into an anti-Western grouping, and that does not fit with India’s independent foreign policy,” Madan remarked.
In the long run, the SCO could pose challenges for Washington and its allies.
“For countries uncomfortable with the West and their foreign policies, the SCO is a welcome alternative, mainly because of the roles Russia and China play. … I think that highlights just how relevant and concerning this group could be for a number of Western capitals, especially if it keeps expanding,” added Kugelman.
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