Modi’s bid to break Samarkand knots

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, September 11: Chinese pattern to step back from Gogra Hotsprings had rightly given the clues that the move was to pave way for the in-person participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Samarkand.

Modi would have surely confronted Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Summit in Uzbekistan, as he had done at Mammalapuram, Tamil Nadu during the second Sino-India informal summit in 2019 following the Doklam transgressions.

On Sunday, the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that Modi would be visiting Uzbekistan at the invitation of its President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during September 15-16.

Indeed, the SCO is no more a playground of China, as India has raised the pitch at the forum during ministerial deliberations in the recent months to guide the group to its principal mandate to counter terrorism in all forms.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval have done the groundwork for Modi to steer the SCO to address its principal mandate even while China and Russia may seek to use the deliberations to indulge in rhetoric against the western world, particularly the US.

The SCO will present the first opportunity for Modi to come across Xi and the Russian President Vladimir Putin in-person. The bilaterals on the sidelines are not ruled out, while the western world would be keenly watching Modi to lean on his heft with Putin to make Moscow reconsider the war in Ukraine.

Modi’s European visit in May and his subsequent participation in the G7 Summit had seen the build-up of the expectations of the western world from India to persuade Russia to call off the Ukrainian invasion.

That role of a peace broker is somewhat currently being played by Turkey. The western world isn’t that naïve to believe that Modi can actually persuade Putin to take back his army from Ukraine when the facts on the grounds suggest that Moscow has been pushed to the wall on account of an exorbitant cost of taking the army into the war.

The Chinese thuggery at the line of actual control in eastern Ladakh would surely keep Modi super cold to Xi, who is the new villain of the western world, with which the Indian economy is now deeply aligned.

Beijing’s Salami slicing strategy to push its military into the neighbour’s region on the sly and then hold on to the position with protracted negotiations for the restoration of the status quo ante is now known even to the students of the international relations.

Jaishankar has already made it clear that the bilateral relations between India and China cannot be normal until the border is stable. That should deny any scope for misgivings that there could be Mamallapuram like bonhomie between Modi and Xi in Samarkand.

Beyond Putin and Xi, Modi will see his Pakistani counterpart Shebaz Sharif for the first time at the forum, while there will be least probability of any bilateral meeting between the two leaders.

Modi’s agenda will be crystal clear to seek the combined efforts of the SCO to address the issue of the rise of the al-Qaeda and the Islamic State splinter groups in Afghanistan, who are competing with the Taliban to carve out their spheres of terror in the war-torn country.

For that matter, Modi would confine his focus to turn the spotlight on terrorism, particularly Afghanistan, while energy security is an issue that India is independently dealing with in its relations with Russia and several other countries.

Indeed, the Samarkand knots that Modi will be expected to break open would be to persuade Putin to not further blunder away Russia into the hopeless war in Ukraine and confronting patrons of terror in the backdrop of an unstable Afghanistan.

Ironically, Pakistan and China are members of the SCO, whose principal mandate is countering terrorism. While Pakistan is the global factory of terrorism, China is its willful partner as demonstrated by its actions in blocking the UN resolutions to designate terrorists at the behest of Islamabad.

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