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Rajnath chairs SCO defence ministers' meeting

Group photograph at the Council of Defence Ministers of the Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in New Delhi. Photo: RMO India, Twitter.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Defence Ministers of India, Russia, China and other member nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Friday deliberated on pressing regional security challenges and related issues at a conclave hosted by New Delhi.

The meeting, chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, is also expected to review the overall situation in Afghanistan.

"India views SCO as an important organisation to promote defence cooperation among member states. We, as a nation, wish to further strengthen the spirit of trust and cooperation among the members of the SCO," Singh said in his opening remarks.

Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu, Russia's Sergei Shoigu, Tajikistan's Colonel General Sherali Mirzo, Iran's Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiyani and Kazakhstan's Colonel General Ruslan Zhaksylykov are among those attending the meeting in Delhi.

Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif was scheduled to participate in the meeting through virtual mode.

"This forum provides an opportunity to all of us to exchange our views, share our perspectives and concerns. This is an important platform where we can discuss the challenges before us, find solutions to them," Singh said.

Officials involved in preparations for the meeting earlier said the main focus of the deliberations would be on regional security situations including the developments in Afghanistan.

They said enhancing coordination among the SCO member countries to effectively combat terrorism and extremism will be another priority.

The SCO is an influential economic and security bloc and has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.

India was made an observer at the SCO in 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.

India has shown a keen interest in 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.

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