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India and Pakistan NSAs to be in Tajikistan next week for SCO meeting

New Delhi: India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Pakistani NSA Moeed Yusuf will participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meet next week in Dushanbe (Tajikistan). The in-person meeting along with the NSAs of other countries is slated for June 23 and 24.

However, there is no confirmation of Indian and Pakistani NSAs having a bilateral meeting, or pull aside.

The development comes at a time when both New Delhi and Islamabad have been cautious in ties in the last few months. This year in February, the Indian and Pakistan army had agreed to observe the 2003 ceasefire pact at the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir. Since then, the pact has stood and the area hasn’t seen any firing.

Earlier in March and April, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishakar and Pakistan FM SM Qureshi were in the same location, but no meeting had taken place between the two. In March, both were in Dushanbe for the ‘Heart of Asia’ meet, while in April, they were in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for their bilateral visits.

The SCO, notably, has eight member states — Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

2017 saw India and Pakistan officially joining the grouping as full-fledged members and in November 2020, India hosted the Shanghai Cooperation Organization heads of government meeting virtually. That was the first time India was hosting such a meet of the group with Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu chairing it.

This year, Tajikistan is the chair of the grouping and took the chairmanship of the SCO at a meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council in November of 2020. Ahead of the meet, early June had seen a protocol meeting to decide the nitty-gritty of the meet.

The next week’s SCO NSAs meet is also expected to see the participation of Russian NSA Nikolai Patrushev and his Chinese counterpart.

Afghanistan is an observer member of SCO with Afghan NSA Hamdullah Mohib going to the city as part of his larger central Asia visit. The Afghan NSA could also hold a bilateral meeting with Ajit Doval in Dushanbe which comes in the backdrop of the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan and increased violence by the Taliban.

Afghan NSA will also attend the SCO meeting in presence of the Pak NSA. This comes even as Pakistan foreign minister SM Qureshi was seen defending the Taliban in an interview to an Afghan channel TOLO News’s Lotfullah Najafizada.

The Pakistan FM had said, “If you try and create this impression that the violence is high because of Taliban, that would be an exaggeration.”