Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will attend a two-day meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) beginning May 21, in the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek.
She is expected to come face-to-face with her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the meeting. However, there is no likelihood of any bilateral meeting between the two foreign ministers on the margins of the SCO meet.
Swaraj’s will be the last overseas visit by any minister representing the Narendra Modi government before the announcement of the 2019 Lok Sabha election results.
She is likely to raise the issue of terrorism and Afghanistan in her speech. The External Affairs Ministry said the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers would exchange views on topical issues of international and regional importance, besides reviewing the preparation for the SCO Summit in Bishkek on 13-14 June.
India will be represented at the summit by the new Prime Minister. India became a full member of the SCO grouping in 2017 along with Pakistan.
New Delhi’s entry has increased the bloc’s heft in regional geo-politics, besides giving it a pan-Asian hue.
India is also keen on deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.
“India actively took part in various SCO dialogue mechanisms under the Chairmanship of the Kyrgyz Republic over the past year,” the MEA said.
Last month, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had attended the SCO Defence Ministers’ meeting in Bishkek.
The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.