Russian President Vladimir Putin has named India, China and his own country as major players in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), days ahead of the bloc’s summit in the eastern Chinese coastal city of Qingdao.
Putin said the eight-member bloc has evolved from a group that was launched to resolve border issues between China, Russia and erstwhile constituents of the Soviet Union into a powerful organisation with substantial resources.
“The SCO member states account for one-fourth of the world’s GDP, 43% of the international population and 23% 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”.
India and Pakistan are set to participate in the latest summit, to be held on June 9 and 10, as full members . It is widely believed that while Russia pushed for India’s membership, Pakistan’s entry into the bloc was backed by China.
The SCO was founded at a Shanghai summit in 2001 that featured the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to meet Putin on the sidelines of the Qingdao summit. If the bilateral meeting does take place, it 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.”
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.”
The external affairs ministry has issued a statement that said Putin and Modi are in agreement about the important role both countries have to play “in contributing to an open and equitable world order”.
Russia will likely be India’s key ally in the SCO, given New Delhi’s history of hostility with Islamabad and differences with Beijing.
Referring to international issues, Putin spoke 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.”