Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Astana on June 8-9 along with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.
Apart from bringing all the leaders at tension on the same platform, the SCO summit is likely to have several crucial highlights. Here are the events to watch out for during the SCO summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
1) India, Pakistan to become full members: The key event at this year's summit is that observers India and Pakistan will finally be admitted as full members to the SCO summit. It is very significant for New Delhi, as it took us 10 years to get an upgrade from current Observer status. The reason for the delay, of course, was the initial opposition from China to India's membership. Beijing went on to ensure that Pakistan too became a full member along with India.
2) Counter-terrorism joint ops: By joining the SCO, the two countries will be part of the Tashkent-based Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) which conducts such exercises. While Indian and Pakistani military officials have served together under the United Nations flag, this will be a rare occasion — when that happens — to conduct joint military exercises along with other SCO countries — China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India, which is focussing on global cooperation against terrorism, is likely to remain at forefront of the issue. But doing so in front of what New Delhi considers a prime culprit Pakistan would definitely be watched closely by the experts.
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3) The cloud of OBOR summit: China is likely to continue the endorsement of its One Belt One Road initiative, which India has refused to be part of as a part of OBOR, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, infringes upon India's sovereignty because it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which India maintains is its territory. India had refused to participate in recent Border Road Fund summit in Beijing which created a tense atmosphere in Asia.
4) Modi-Xi meeting: Officials have confirmed that a meeting between Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the summit is almost definite. Xi and Modi had started their terms with a very cordial relationship, but the things have been not so ideal in past some time. It will be interesting to see how the two leaders use this time to nip the rising tension between two Asians giants in the bud.
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5) Possible pull aside or handshake between Modi and Sharif: There are only a handful of countries in the SCO and a face-to-face meeting between PM Modi and Pak PM Sharif is unavoidable. However, officials said that even as no formal meeting has been planned between Pak PM Sharif and PM Modi, a handshake or a pull aside is possible between the two leaders. Last time PM Modi and Pak PM Sharif met was on December 25, 201, when Modi made a surprise stopover in Lahore en route Delhi to Kabul. Only a week later on January 2, 2016, an attack on an IAF base in Pathankot by Pakistan ruined the peace process between the two nations. Since then a series of Line of Control misadventure, including Uri attack, the surgical strike by Indian Army and followed by Kulbhushan Jadhav debacle has only widened the rift between India and Pakistan.
6) Scope for mediation by Russia and China: India has never been appreciative of mediation on Indo-Pak matters by any third party. But according to experts, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Sharif had an informal meeting in Beijing recently during the Belt and Road Initiative summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping had also joined at the end. “Putin and Xi supposedly had offered to play a mediatory role between Sharif and Modi at Astana,” an expert said.