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NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan will come face-to-face in Russia’s Sochi next week for the SCO summit. Diplomatic sources from both countries said though that there was no proposal yet for any bilateral engagement on the sidelines of the summit.
While external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will represent India at the summit, Pakistan is yet to announce the name of the leader who will head its delegation. Pakistan is also likely to be represented by its foreign minister Khawaja Asif.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will lead the Chinese delegation at the summit. Official sources here said that at the moment it seemed unlikely that Swaraj was going to have any bilateral meeting, or even a pull-aside, with the head of the Pakistani delegation.
India and Pakistan are currently in the middle of intense negotiations meant to facilitate a meeting between alleged Indian spy in Pakistan’s custody Kulbhushan Jadhav and his wife. India wants Pakistan to allow Jadhav’s mother and an Indian diplomat to accompany his wife.
Both India and Pakistan are now full members of SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation). While India’s membership was strongly backed by Russia, Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was ensured by China. India had been an observer at the SCO since 2005. It has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping which holds the key to peace and stability in resource-rich Central Asia and Afghanistan.
Counter-terrorism is likely to be the main focus area for Swaraj at the summit, sources here said. It is significant that India and Pakistan, along with the other six member-countries, will participate in joint exercises against terrorism under Tashkent-based RATS or Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of SCO.
At the Astana SCO summit earlier this year, PM Narendra Modi had sought to corner Pakistan saying that whether it was the issue of radicalisation and recruitment of terrorists or their training and financing, it was impossible to find a solution unless coordinated and strong efforts were made.
Describing terrorism as a major threat to humanity, Modi had said that India-SCO cooperation will give a new direction and strength to the fight against terrorism. Taking off from Modi, Swaraj is expected to again underline India’s position that while India was all for connectivity, it wanted such initiatives to not undermine sovereignty. This is important for India in the context of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) which passes through the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region.