Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, attend SCO Summit in his first visit abroad in over two years

China announced on Monday that President Xi Jinping will pay state visits to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan from Sep 14 – 16 and attend the summit meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Uzbek city of Samarkand where Iran is likely to be formally admitted into the SCO and India, for the first time, will take over the SCO Presidency from Uzbekistan.

The three-day visit to the Central Asian countries will be Mr. Xi’s first visit abroad in over two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and comes just a month ahead of the crucial party congress where he looks set to secure a third term in power defying precedents. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not elaborate on Xi’s meeting plans, but Russian state media and officials said last week Russian President Putin plans to meet with Chinese President Xi on the sidelines of the SCO Summit. Xi would first visit Kazakhstan on September 14 (Wednesday), which comes after his last visit to Myanmar from January 17-18, 2020.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Uzbekistan on September 15-16 to attend the SCO Summit and is also likely to hold a few bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement on Sunday. Samarkand Summit would be the first in-person SCO summit since 2019 and will be watched closely as it is being held amid major geopolitical developments like Russia- Ukraine war, the crisis over Taiwan and a faltering global economy under recessionary pressure, the situation in Afghanistan, cross-border terrorism, extremism, supply chain logistics and connectivity with Eurasia.

There is a possibility of bilateral meetings on the sidelines with Chinese President Xi, Russian President Putin, and newly elected Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif among the leaders expected to attend. China and India on Thursday announced the disengagement of their troops from the Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hot springs area of eastern Ladakh in a “coordinated and planned way” which was scheduled to be completed on Monday.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a Eurasian political, economic and security group. China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were the founding members of the SCO with its headquarter in Beijing, while India and Pakistan joined the grouping in 2017 in its first round of expansion. SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming in July said that he expected to see a Memorandum of Obligations of Iran joining the SCO to be passed at the Samarkand summit which will be the second round of SCO expansion.

Belarus has also applied for SCO membership. He said that legal process regarding Belarus’ application for SCO membership will soon start, but it will require the consensus of all member states. He said, the significance of this round of expansion is that it shows the SCO’s rising international influence and that the principles of the SCO charter are being widely accepted.

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