The prime ministers of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will attend the summit of the heads of government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on Monday while Pakistan will be represented by its parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said. India is hosting the summit for the first time after it gained full membership of the influential grouping in 2017. The summit will take place in the virtual format.
The MEA said Vice President Venkaiah Naidu will chair the 19th meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government which is held annually with a focus on trade and economic agenda of the organisation. "The prime ministers from the SCO member states of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will attend the SCO meeting on November 30. Pakistan will be represented by the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs," the MEA said in a statement.
Apart from the SCO member states, the four observer states of the SCO — Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia — will also participate in the summit. The MEA said the president of Afghanistan, the first vice president of Iran, the prime minister of Belarus and the deputy prime minister of Mongolia will represent their countries.
Turkmenistan has been invited as a special guest of the host and will be represented by its deputy chairman of the cabinet of ministers. The SCO secretary general and the executive director of the SCO Regional Anti Terrorist Structure (RATS) are also scheduled to participate in the virtual summit.
India assumed the chair of the SCO Council of Heads of Government on November 2 last year as per rotation from the previous chair – Uzbekistan – and will complete its year-long tenure on November 30 by hosting the summit. "It will be the first time that a summit-level meeting will be held under India's chairmanship, since it gained full membership of the organisation in 2017," the MEA said.
The SCO summit of the Council of Heads of State is considered the main annual event. It was hosted by Russia on November 10 in the virtual format and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had participated in it. The SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO, has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations.
The MEA also said that India hopes to further strengthen cooperation in trade, economic and cultural spheres within the bloc. "19th meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government on 30 November, India hopes to further strengthen greater trade, economic and cultural cooperation within SCO by putting human beings at the centre of SCO activities and to foster greater peace and prosperity in the region," it said.
"We hope that India's initiatives will not only be helpful for the SCO Member States in overcoming the economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic but will also signal our continued commitment to strengthening the organisation," the MEA said. The summit will end with the adoption of a joint communique, the Ministry of External Affairs said "During the course of our chairmanship of the SCO Council of Heads of Government in 2020, India has particularly focused on creating three new pillars of cooperation: startups and innovation, science and technology and traditional medicine," the MEA said.
India has also offered to create and chair a new special working group on startups and innovation and to set up a new expert working group on cooperation in traditional medicine.