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India taking SCO summit online

India opts to host July SCO summit in online format; the West is attempting to strong-arm Serbia into joining its anti-Russian sanctions regime; and Russian companies will need to boost investments in order to maintain current oil output levels. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.

The summit of heads of state and government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which India will chair for the first time, will be held in an online format on July 4, the press service of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced without elaborating on the reasons. Originally, the meeting was to be held face-to-face in New Delhi. Experts told Vedomosti that the decision was most likely due to India’s desire to maintain working relations with all parties in the midst of the Ukrainian conflict.

On May 31, The Hindu newspaper reported, citing sources, that the decision to hold the summit remotely was made amid the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which could overshadow President Vladimir Putin’s participation. Other reasons cited by the sources included Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s schedule, the uncertainty about whether Chinese President Xi Jinping, a key player in the SCO, and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif would be attending in person, and the lack of preparedness of the designated venue to host the high-profile event.

In turn, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that, “various options for the participation of President [Vladimir Putin] in the work of this important format are being worked out. In any case, Russia will be properly represented.”

According to Alexey Kupriyanov, director of the Center for the Indian Ocean Region at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), India is not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has issued an arrest warrant for Putin, and thus India bears no obligations to comply with the ICC’s provisions and rulings and faces none of the relevant risks. The move to an online format is more likely due to New Delhi’s unwillingness to air differences with key countries that have opposing views on or varying levels of involvement in the Ukraine conflict, according to the analyst. According to Kupriyanov, India would like to maintain working relations with everyone.

At the same time, Nandan Unnikrishnan, researcher at the Indian Observer Research Foundation, believes that the decision to hold an online forum pertains not only to Russia and its extremely strained relations with India’s Western partners, but also to the leaders of China and Pakistan declining to visit New Delhi. Under these conditions, the online format turns out to be more convenient for all SCO members.



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