China's President Xi Jinping on Wednesday left for Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek. He is scheduled to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit where he will also hold a bilateral with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This would be the first meeting between the two leaders after Prime Minister Modi took office for the second time.
The 19th summit of the SCO is due to be held on June 13-14 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The SCO is a China-led economic and security bloc comprising of eight countries. India and Pakistan were admitted to the group in 2017.
The SCO summit will be the first major international event being attended by Prime Minister Modi after his re-election. The Prime Minister will also meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit.
The summit will address issues like security and counter-terrorism cooperation along with the member countries. In addition, it will symbolise the Modi government’s significant relations with immediate neighbours. The Prime Minister had invited Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, who also headed the SCO, leaders of BIMSTEC and Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth to his oath ceremony last month. Also, this is the first SCO summit meeting which will be attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, though India is not expected to hold talks at any level with the neighbour country.
China, however, has already flagged its expectations both on Xi-Modi meeting as well as of the summit.
"President Xi and Prime Minister Modi are good friends. They had very successful informal summit at Wuhan last year," said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui referring to the Modi-Xi meeting.
The informal summit helped India and China ease the tensions arising of the 2017 Doklam standoff along the India-China-Bhutan borders. After the Wuhan summit, both the countries stepped up efforts to improve relations in various sectors including military ties. Earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that President Xi would go to India later this year for another informal summit.
Officials said Xi's visit is expected to come up for discussion during his meeting with PM Modi at Bishkek. Both leaders were expected to give new inputs and focus on relations relevant to the trade and investment front. China also hinted at a possible move by President Xi to forge a united front against US President Donald Trump’s trade protectionism and unilateralism policies with tariffs as weapons to counter China.
Trade conflicts have escalated over the past year. After US has increased restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei, both frontiers seem to be on a colliding course. Trade deal hopes were shattered in May after the Trump administration doubled the tariffs on Chinese imports. Additional duties were also threatened. With India facing trade barriers too, China is hoping that India, will join the fight against Trump’s protectionist policies.
"Trade protectionism and unilateralism are very much on the rise. How to respond to the bullying practices of the US, its practice of trade protectionism this is an important question not only to China, but also has direct bearing on the recovery of global economy," Zhang said.
"So I would say it will be helpful if the two leaders could exchange views and we hope their communication will lead to extensive consensus on upholding justice and opposing trade protectionism," he added.
About the summit agenda, Zhang said the institutional building of the SCO would be discussed involving economic and security cooperation, mainly counterterrorism. Security and development are two major issues focus of the SCO.
"The establishment of the SCO is not to target any country but summit of this level would certainly pay attention to major international and regional issues," he said in response to a question whether the thrust of the summit would be to oppose the US' trade frictions with China and other countries.
After Kyrgyzstan, Xi would travel to Tajikistan where he would attend the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe.