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Sitharaman attends SCO conclave in Kyrgyzstan; holds talks with Chinese counterpart

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during a bilateral meeting with Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers Meet in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on April 29, 2019. Photo: PTI

NEW DELHI (PTI): Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday attended a key conclave of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Kyrgyzstan and held bilateral meetings on its sidelines, including with her Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe.

Sitharaman attended the SCO Defence Ministers' conclave in Bishkek where ways to further boost defence and security cooperation among the member countries in the wake of evolving security challenges in the region were discussed.

On the sidelines of the conclave, Sitharaman attended a bilateral meeting with Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe.

The Defence Minister held talks with Russian Defence Minister General Sergey Shoygu and discussed key bilateral defence issues.

She also held a bilateral meeting with Major General Raimberdi Duishenbiev, Chief of General Staff of Kyrgyz Armed Forces, and discussed defence cooperation between the two countries.

India became a full member of the China-dominated grouping in 2017 and New Delhi's entry into it increased the bloc's heft in regional geopolitics, besides giving it a pan-Asian hue.

India is also keen on 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 an observer at the SCO since 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.

Along with India, Pakistan was also granted membership of the SCO in 2017.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan became its members last year.

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