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Context: India welcomed the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to include Iran next year, as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar shared a table with Foreign Ministers of China Wang Yi, Pakistan Bilawal Bhutto, Russia Sergey Lavrov and central Asian countries at the ministerial meeting in Tashkent.
More on the news:
- While India pushed for Chabahar port to be a conduit for trade to central Asia, Pakistan's Foreign Minister promoted the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for trans-regional trade.
- Jaishankar held bilateral talks with his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, but no meetings with Mr. Bhutto, Mr. Wang or Mr. Muttaqi, who was also in Tashkent for a special SCO reach out, were announced.
- Jaishankar highlighted India's assistance to Afghanistan at the meeting.
- “Reiterated India’s position on Afghanistan and highlighted our humanitarian support: wheat, medicines, vaccines and clothing,” Mr. Jaishankar said after the meetings, adding that he had underlined the potential for Iran’s Chabahar for the “SCO's economic future”.
- The External Affairs Minister said he had also raised the problems of the energy crisis and food crisis arising from the “Ukraine conflict”, making no mention of Russia's role in the conflict, as well as from the COVID pandemic.
- Jaishankar said India's Presidency next year would give SCO cooperation a “renewed thrust”.
- It is located in the Indian Ocean in the Sistan province of Iran.
- The Chabahar port is considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries.
- The port, which is easily accessible from India's western coast, is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan's Gwadar Port which is being developed with Chinese investment.
- Chabahar Port provides an option of alternate supply route to everyone, thus reducing the importance of Pakistan with respect to trade.
- It is located on the Gulf of Oman and is only 72 km away from the Gwadar port in Pakistan which has been developed by China.
- China is aggressively pursuing its own Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) under the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project.
- In future, the Chabahar project and the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) will complement each other by optimising Indian connectivity with Russia and Eurasia.
- Also, it gives India direct access to Afghanistan and other Central Asian Republics