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Imran Khan & Narendra Modi: face to face at SCO summit

Though Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has clarified that no formal meeting has been planned between the two prime minsters, Modi and Imran Khan, yet the speculations of an accidental meeting continue.


News desk |

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – at times touted as Asian NATO – is holding its 19th summit, beginning Thursday in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek.

Among others, the leaders of member states attending the two-day summit, include Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.

The summit carries particular significance in the wake of a global trade war between China and the US which is intensifying by the day. Trump Administration has slapped duties on Chinese goods worth more than $200 billion and China has responded through its own countermeasures.

Also the dispute around Huawei is causing huge tensions with the US president making it clear that United States will not let China lead in the 5G technology platforms. But during the recent summit meeting between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin it was agreed that Chinese company, Huawei will help Russian companies build 5G platforms in clear affront to the United States position on the issue.

Imran Khan & Narendra Modi: Face to Face

But the SCO will also provide an opportunity for two estranged South Asian nations to face each other. Indian and Pakistani leaders will be forced to interact for the very first time. Imran Khan, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister and Narendra Modi have never met since Khan came to power in the July elections of 2018 – though he had once met Narendra Modi during his visit to India as Pakistan’s main opposition leader a few years ago.

Khan tried engaging Indian PM, Narendra Modi after coming to power and has exchanged messages and letters and even had a telephonic conversation with Modi after August 2018. However, relations are especially cold since 27th February 2018 when Indian air-force struck inside the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa usually referred to as KP. Indian government defended their actions as response to terror strike at Pulwama (Feb, 12) in the Indian controlled Kashmir which India blamed on groups operating from Pakistan.

Indo-Pakistan Aerial Dog-Fight in Feb 2019

Pakistan had strongly denied the accusation, asked India for proofs and reacted robustly to Indian air strike by striking back inside Indian controlled Kashmir. In subsequent aerial dog fight Pakistan Air-Force (PAF) downed two Indian fighter planes (A Mig-21 and SU-27) and captured an Indian pilot of Mig-21. However India claims that only one plane was shot down and made counter claims that its pilots shot down a US made F-16. United States govt. – the supplier of F-16 planes and parts – has however verified that Pakistani stock of F-16s is complete.

Both India and Pakistan were careful in not hitting civilian populations or infrastructure during their brief skirmish. Though the Indian government made leaks to its media claiming killing 350 militants in Ballot, KP,. But under the scrutiny of Indian media and opposition, it later retracted its earlier claims and admitted that no casualties took place during its airstrike.

Read more: No Pakistani killed in Balakot air strike: India finally admits

Imran Khan won international and Indian praise for releasing Indian pilot, Wing. Comd. Abhinandan

Imran Khan, Pakistani PM earned international praise and plaudits from civil society and political parties for unconditionally returning the Indian pilot (Wing Comd. Abhinandan). The whole episode has been hugely embarrassing for Indian PM, Narendra Modi who was seen as over-reacting and had also failed to teach Pakistan a lesson.

However Indo-Pakistani tensions are believed to have helped Narendra Modi win his May 2019 elections by a huge margin. Modi’s critics suspect that Pulwama attack in Kashmir was an internal job to ratchet up tensions focusing elections into a national security agenda and allowing Modi to become a wartime Prime Minister of an India under threat. Modi and his party leaders all declared themselves, “Chowkidars” (Guards) of an India threatened by Pakistan, on their twitter handles.

While Indo-Pakistani media speculated that prime ministers Narendra Modi and Imran Khan might be meeting on the sidelines of SCO summit at Bishkek, spokesman of Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in question-answer session clarified that no formal meeting has been planned.  Despite this media speculations continue that both leaders might bump into each other.

Meeting between Putin and Imran Khan?

Pakistani media is reporting that Russian President, Vladimir Putin and Pakistani PM Imran Khan will be meeting at the sidelines of Bishkek Summit. If this meeting transpired, it will be the first meeting between the two leaders. Putin was expected in Pakistan during the PPP government but then his visit was cancelled in the last minute; for reasons not clear to this day. No Pakistani leader has met Putin since the Musharraf-Putin meeting in Moscow.

Iran, participating as an observer state, will be seeking an audience with Asian countries over crippling sanctions imposed by Washington on its oil market.

Read more: Iran oil sanctions: US threatens with no exemptions to any country

The summit assumes further significance as it is taking place just a fortnight ahead of the meeting of the heads of G20 countries, scheduled in Japan’s province of Osaka on June 28-29. All eyes are also on the bilateral meeting between Russian Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the summit.

The outcome at the SCO as well as the bilateral meeting between Russian and Chinese leaders may help Asian nations to put up a common position on various issues at the G20 summit.

GVS news desk

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