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PM Modi, Imran Khan to skip SCO summit today

Vice president M Venkaiah Naidu will chair the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) council of heads of government summit on Monday, and both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan will not join the virtual meeting.

The council of heads of government is the second highest body of SCO and is responsible for handling the grouping’s trade and economic agenda and approving its annual budget. This is the first time India is hosting a meeting of the body since it was admitted eight-member grouping in 2017.

Pakistan’s participation in the meeting will be at the lowest level – the country will be represented by parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Andleeb Abbas. Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will be represented by their prime ministers.

Modi, Khan and Chinese President Xi Jinping had joined the virtual SCO summit, chaired by Russia earlier this month.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that India has usually been represented at meetings of the SCO council of heads of government at the level of the external affairs minister, while defence minister Rajnath Singh had attended last year’s meeting in Uzbekistan. “Since India is hosting the meeting this year, the vice president will chair it,” said one of the people.

In January, the external affairs ministry had said the SCO council of heads of government meeting is “held annually at the prime minister level” and that India would invite all eight members of SCO and four observer states and other international dialogue partners to the meet in November.

Modi is set to visit his constituency of Varanasi on November 30 to launch the Varanasi-Prayagraj highway project and participate in Deepotsav celebrations at the Ganges ghats.

Though Khan has joined virtual multilateral meetings hosted by other countries, he skipped the online meeting of leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) hosted by India in March to discuss ways to counter the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pakistan’s representative at that meeting had created a flutter by raising the Kashmir issue.

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