Putin names India, China and Russia as 'major players' in SCO
06 June 2018
A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended India’s defence ties with the United States (See: Modi defends India-US defence ties as balancing act), Russian President Vladimir Putin today named India, China and Russia as 'major players’ in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
The Russian premier’s statement comes ahead of the 18th summit of the eight-member block in the eastern Chinese coastal city of Qingdao on 9 and 10 June.
Putin’s comment is significant as India and Pakistan are set to participate in the summit as full members.
Originally launched to resolve border issues between China, Russia and erstwhile constituents of the Soviet Union, the block has evolved to a powerful eight-member grouping with substantial resources, Putin said.
The SCO was founded at a Shanghai summit of the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in 2001.
“The SCO member states account for one-fourth of the world’s GDP, 43 per cent of the international population and 23 per cent of the global territory,” Putin told China Media Group, which includes the CGTN English channel. He stressed on the “rapid economic growth of China, India and Russia, all of which are major players in the organisation”.
It is widely believed that while Russia pushed for India’s membership, while Pakistan’s entry into the bloc was backed by China.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to meet Putin on the sidelines of the Qingdao summit, which will be their second such interaction in three weeks after the informal summit at Sochi in May.
“Russia is India’s old-time friend. We share long-standing historical ties, and Mr President (Putin) is my personal friend and a friend of India,” Modi had said after a summit at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. “For the past four years, you and I stood side by side in the bilateral format and on the international stage... I am very glad that it was so.” (Also see: Modi-Putin talks to strengthen strategic partnership between India and Russia
Modi also declared on Twitter: “The friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time. Our ties will continue to scale newer heights in the coming years.”
An external affairs ministry statement had said that Putin and Modi are in agreement about the important role both countries have to play “in contributing to an open and equitable world order”.
While Russia is likely to be India’s key ally in the SCO, Putin was sceptical about the future of ties between Russia and those in the West.
“While I am hoping for a positive relationship, we are neither surprised nor scared by the current limitations and sanctions (imposed on Russia). We will never give up on the path to independence and sovereignty,” Putin said, adding the sanctions were hurting not just Russia but also the ones imposing them.
“Those countries who followed America’s actions have themselves suffered losses,” Putin said. “It has been proven that these means are not at all powerful.”
In signs that India is also working to narrow differences with China, India's envoy Gautam Bambawale said India and China will not "be apart" from each other on the path of development.
The Indian envoy said this in an interview to the state-controlled China Central Television (CCTV) ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bilateral meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Summit (SCO) this week.
Modi will have a one-on-one meet with Xi, over a month after his ice-breaking meeting with China's President in Wuhan.
Bambawale described the Wuhan meet as a "strategic communication" between the leaders.
"I think the informal Wuhan summit between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi was an effort by the leaders of two large countries in the world, India and China, to talk to each other, to promote cooperation between the two countries," Bambawale said.
"Most importantly, it was a strategic communication between the leaders of the two countries. As a result of their discussion in Wuhan, the two leaders have arrived at a certain consensus: the first and most important consensus is India and China are partners in progress and economic development: the second most important consensus is that there are many more commonalities between India and China than differences," he added.
"We will work on these commonalities. Of course, there are certain differences between us, but we will also work at the differences to ensure the two countries continue to progress and prosper together.
"We are not going to be going away from each other or apart from each other. We are going to do this together."
Sino-Indian ties were hit hard last year during and after an over two-month military stand-off near their borders with Bhutan.
The relations have been on an upswing since December.