India has always been skilled at dealing with both sides of diplomatic arguments – and it has an inclination towards “multilateral” and even “multi-bilateral” arrangements while western friends prefer “bilateral”.
So, it will be interesting to see what role Indian PM Modi will play at the 22nd leaders’ summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, to be held on 15–16 September – the first in-person gathering of the central Asian grouping since 2019.
While it might not make page one news, politicians and diplomats around the world will be closely watching this summit to be held in the ancient Uzbek Silk Road city Samarkand. Not only is it providing Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin their first face-to-face meeting since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and declaration last year of a “forever partnership” – but it also comes after an interval where Indian PM Modi became closer and more impactful at the QUAD.
The members of SCO are China, India, Tajikistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. Four Observer States were involved in granting full membership (Belarus, Iran, Afghanistan, and Mongolia) and six “Dialogue Partners” (Nepal, Armenia, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, and Turkey).
The QUAD nations are India, USA, Japan and Australia.
If he attends, Modi is expected to have meetings with Putin and Xi, giving a further glimpse as to how India is likely to map out its relationship with Eurasia’s great powers.
Modi has previously stood up to pressure from QUAD countries to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so as a leader he has a track record of combining non-confrontation with firm commitment to his own position.