Modi arrives in Astana, India set for SCO entry
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the Kazakh capital on Thursday on a two-day visit to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit where India and Pakistan will be inducted as full members of the bloc, in the first ever expansion since its inception in 2001.
India's entry into the China-dominated grouping is seen as a major milestone as it is expected to increase the group's clout in regional geo-politics and trade negotiations besides giving it a pan-Asian hue.
Experts say India's inclusion may even bring down Beijing's overarching influence over the SCO.
The Prime Minister will address the SCO Summit on Friday and is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping amid growing differences between the two countries over a host of issues, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and India's Nuclear Suppliers Group membership bid.
If the meeting takes place, then it would be the first between the two leaders after India boycotted the high-profile Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing last month in which 29 world leaders took part.
India abstained from the Summit to highlight its concerns over the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
There is also speculation about a possible meeting between Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to ease the growing tension between the two neighbours.
However, India has been maintaining that there was neither any request from the Pakistani side nor any such proposal from the Indian side for a Modi-Sharif meeting.
President Xi arrived here on Wednesday while Prime Minister Sharif reached the Kazakh capital on Thursday.
The Prime Minister is also expected to meet a number of other foreign leaders, including Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
"I look forward to deepening India's association with the SCO which will help us in economic, connectivity and counter- terrorism cooperation, among other things," Prime Minister Modi said ahead of his visit here. with agency inputs