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How to avoid breaking summit bread

Xi Jinping, Shahbaz Sharif presence kept in mind while timing Narendra Modi's trip
Narendra Modi.
Narendra Modi.
File picture

Anita Joshua   |   New Delhi   |   Published 16.09.22, 01:46 AM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand on Thursday evening.

The 24-hour visit has been timed in a way that will ensure he does not have to break bread with Chinese President Xi Jinping or Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif though all three will be in the same room on Friday for the meeting.

In the process, he also does not have to share a meal with Russian President Vladimir Putin whose office has confirmed a bilateral with Modi on the sidelines of the SCO summit. But only late at night did India confirm such an engagement.

The only bilateral engagement foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra was willing to confirm in his pre-departure briefing in the morning was with the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, while maintaining that the Prime Minister would meet some other leaders in the one-to-one format but did not disclose their names.

Modi also did not reveal any more in his pre-departure statement issued in the evening.

Asked if the Prime Minister would go boat-riding like the other SCO leaders, Kwatra said: “He is there for a very brief period. Essentially he reaches there later tonight (Thursday), attends the restricted and the extended session tomorrow and the couple of other engagements, which are relating to the SCO summit tomorrow and does a set of bilateral meetings…, and then scheduled to return tomorrow night.”

The Russians have for the past couple of days been confirming a bilateral meeting between Putin and Modi. If it materialises, this would be the first time the two leaders will be meeting in a bilateral format after the Russia-Ukraine war began in February-end.

The two met last week for the first time in the virtual format during the Eastern Economic Forum hosted by Putin in Vladivostok during which Prime Minister Modi was full of praise for the Russian President and called for deepening India’s engagement in the Russian Far East.

While the disengagement at Patrolling Point 15 in Eastern Ladakh’s Gogra-Hot Springs had given rise to speculation about a possible Modi-Xi meeting in Samarkand, there has been silence from both capitals on this.

As with Putin, this will be the first time Modi and Xi will be under the same roof after bilateral relations took a downward trajectory following the Galwan clashes in May 2021.

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