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SCO defence ministers' meet to discuss regional situation, ways to combat terrorism

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) pursues a policy based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, the defence ministry has said ahead of hosting a key meeting of the grouping on Friday.

Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu, Russia's Sergei Shoigu and their counterparts from the other member countries of the grouping, except Pakistan's Khawaja Asif, are set to attend the meeting.

Li's visit to India is taking place amid a three-year border row in eastern Ladakh and days after India and China held a fresh round of military talks to resolve issues at the remaining friction points.

In a statement on Tuesday, the defence ministry said counter-terror cooperation and matters concerning regional peace and security will figure prominently at the SCO defence ministerial conclave.

It said the theme of India's presidency of the grouping in 2023 is "Secure SCO".

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Li are set to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the SCO meeting in Delhi.

Singh will hold bilateral meetings with the visiting defence ministers on the sidelines of the SCO meet.

The SCO meeting will be chaired by Singh.

"The defence ministers will discuss amongst other issues concerning regional peace and security, counter-terrorism efforts within the SCO and an effective multilateralism," the ministry said.

It said India attaches special importance to the SCO in promoting multilateral, political, security, economic and people-to-people interactions in the region.

"The SCO pursues its policy based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, non-interference in internal affairs, equality of all member states and mutual understanding and respect for opinions of each of them," it added.

The SCO defence ministers' meeting is also expected to deliberate on the situation in Afghanistan.

The ministry said the ongoing engagement with the SCO has helped India promote its relations with the countries in the region, with which New Delhi shares civilisational linkages and which are considered its extended neighbourhood.

The SCO member countries are Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, India, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Apart from the member states, two observer countries -- Belarus and Iran -- will also be participating in the SCO defence ministers' meeting.

People familiar with the matter said the Pakistani defence minister may attend the meeting through video-conferencing.

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

Over the years, it has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.

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