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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh attends SCO meet in Dushanbe

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during bilateral talks with his Belarusian counterpart Lt. Gen. Viktor Khrenin ahead of the SCO summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. A PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday attended a conclave of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Dushanbe that extensively deliberated on regional security challenges as well as the situation in Afghanistan.

The Defence Minister reached the capital city of Tajikistan on Tuesday on a three-day visit to attend the conclave of the defence ministers of the member states of the SCO, an eight-nation influential grouping.

Ahead of the conclave, Singh held bilateral talks with his Belarusian counterpart Lt. Gen. Viktor Khrenin and had a brief conversation with Russian Defence Minister Gen. Sergey Shoygu.

"Warm and trusted friendship: RM @rajnathsingh in conversation with Russian Defence Minister #Shoigu on sidelines of #SCO Defence Ministers meeting in Dushanbe. Both Ministers reaffirmed our Defence partnership remains strong and enduring," the Indian embassy in Russia tweeted along with a photo of the two leaders.

In his address at the conclave, officials said Singh is expected to delve into regional security challenges, including terrorism, and the ways to deal with them.

Singh's office shared on Twitter photos of his attending the conclave.

Officials said the deliberations at the conclave focused on regional security challenges and evolving situation in Afghanistan.

The Defence Minister is also expected to meet his Tajik counterpart, Col. Gen. Sherali Mirzo, to discuss bilateral as well as other issues of mutual interest.

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe is also attending the SCO meeting.

Tajikistan is chairing the SCO this year and hosting a series of ministerial and official-level meetings.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited Dushanbe to attend a conclave of Foreign Ministers of the SCO states on July 14.

He held an hour-long bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the conclave.

The SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO, is an eight-member economic and security bloc and has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the Presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

India has shown keen interest in deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.

India was made an observer at the SCO in 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping, which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.

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