SCO virtual summit: Putin, Xi to join India’s Modi to expand Eurasian influence

Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will hold an online summit hosted by India on Tuesday in a bid to enhance the influence of the Eurasian group. The summit aims to include Iran and pave the way for Belarus to become a member.

China’s President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin are set to participate in the virtual summit. This will mark Putin’s first appearance at an international event since he suppressed a mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group in late June, as reported by Reuters.

Established in 2001 by China and Russia, with former Soviet central Asian states as members, the SCO expanded with the inclusion of India and Pakistan. The eight-member organization is a political and security group that seeks to counter western influence in Eurasia.

Iran is expected to be accepted as a member, while Belarus will sign a memorandum of obligations, leading to its future membership. Once both countries, which currently hold observer status and maintain close ties with Moscow, join the SCO, the group’s reach will expand in both Europe and Asia.

The summit comes shortly after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States, during which he and U.S. President Joe Biden referred to their countries as “among the closest partners in the world.”

As India holds the presidency of the SCO and the G20 this year, it faces diplomatic challenges amid strained relations between western nations and the Russia-China partnership. Tensions have arisen due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year and Beijing’s assertive presence in global geopolitics.

Recently, Putin and Modi discussed the aftermath of the suppressed mercenary mutiny during a phone call. Modi reiterated the importance of dialogue and diplomacy regarding the conflict in Ukraine.

During last year’s summit in Uzbekistan, Modi conveyed to Putin that the current era is not one of warfare, marking India’s closest approach to addressing the issue directly with the Russian leader.