India to Host SCO Summit Virtually, Citing Geopolitical Considerations and Global Health Situation

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In a surprising move, India has announced that it will host the 22nd Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in a virtual format on July 4, 2023. The decision came as a surprise to many, as it was initially expected that the leaders of all SCO countries would gather in New Delhi for the summit. The Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair the virtual summit but did not provide specific reasons for the decision. According to sources familiar with the matter, the decision to host the summit virtually was made after consultations over the past few days.

It is believed that geopolitical considerations and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict played a role in the decision. Hosting the summit physically would have required Russian President Vladimir Putin to travel to India, which could have complicated the already tense situation. Furthermore, strained relations between India and both China and Pakistan may have contributed to the decision. The heads of both countries were expected to visit New Delhi for the summit, but given the current circumstances, hosting a physical gathering could have posed challenges.

The theme of the summit, “Towards a SECURE SCO,” reflects the key areas of focus for the participating nations, including security, economy and trade, connectivity, unity, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the environment. India has also extended invitations to observer states Iran, Belarus, and Mongolia, as well as guest of the chair, Turkmenistan. The virtual format of the summit will allow leaders to address these important issues while mitigating the risks associated with travel during the ongoing global health situation. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for meaningful discussions and collaboration among SCO member states, observers, and guest nations.

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