Terrorism, Taliban & Iran, drug trafficking to be discussed at SCO on Sept 17


This is the first SCO meeting taking place in hybrid format and for India this is the fourth time it is attending as a full member. (File image)

External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar will represent India at the 21st Meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

The meeting which is happening in Hybrid format is on Sept 17, 2021 and is going to be chaired by the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon.

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According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is leading the Indian delegation will address the plenary session of the Summit virtually. India will be represented by Dr S Jaishankar in-person at the summit in Dushanbe.

In an official statement issued by the MEA, the agenda of the SCO meeting on Friday is going to focus on issues of regional and international importance.

This is the first SCO meeting taking place in hybrid format and for India this is the fourth time it is attending as a full member.

Also on the agenda is the review of the organization’s activities over two decades, as this year it is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The members are also going to talk about the future cooperation among member countries.

According to sources, “the meeting is happening at a time when the Taliban already announced its interim government in the war torn Afghanistan. Besides India which fears increase in drug trafficking and use of Afghanistan by terrorists to attack India, countries including Iran, and Central Asian nations and Russia too have the same concerns including radicalization. All these concerns are going to be raised during the Council of Heads of State meeting on Friday. Iran has already publicly expressed its unhappiness with the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan.”

Iran has also sought membership of SCO which will be discussed during the meeting.

The issue of Iran’s membership to SCO will also be discussed by the member states.

“Iran was one of the six major countries along with Pakistan, Turkey, Qatar, Russia and China that welcomed the formation of Taliban led dispensation in Afghanistan. However its happiness was short lived when the Taliban announced a government that ignored Iranian interests by installing a complete Sunni dispensation ignoring the claims of the Shia minority. Peeved with the development, Iran denounced the development and called for an exclusive government,” says Maj Gen NK Bhatia (retd).

Who all will attend?

The leaders of the Secretary General of SCO, member states, Executive director of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), Observer states,. And, the President of Turkmenistan and other guests.

Iran & Taliban: Why all is not well

Sharing his thoughts with Financial Express Online, Maj Gen NK Bhatia says, “The relationship between Iran and Taliban can be described as tenuous at best. The root cause of the differences between the two is the opposing ideology of Islam.

Historically the systematic massacre of thousands of Hazara’s in 1998 by the Taliban and killing of nine Iranian diplomats during the same period is a grim reminder of Taliban’s bloody past against Shias and remains a sore point for any Iranian regime before it does any business with Taliban.”

“Similarly for Taliban, Iran’s support to erstwhile Northern Alliance along with USA, India and other countries, leading to its ouster from power in 2001 would remind the force to look at Iran suspiciously.

However, notwithstanding the sectarian divide and legacy issues between Iran and Taliban, the two developed bonhomie due to their shared hatred against the USA in the past two decades,” explains the Indian Army veteran.

According to Maj Gen Bhatia, “The opening of a Taliban political office in Doha in 2012 provided an opportunity to the two sides to re- engage with each other as the Taliban appeared breaking away from the shadows of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s bête noire. Given Iran’s interests in neighbouring Afghanistan and its eagerness to engage with the Taliban provided for an opportunity to forget old rivalries.”

The fact that Mullah Mansour, head of Taliban was killed in May 2016 after he crossed over from Iran to Pakistan revealed that relations between the two sides had mended. Thereafter as is widely known, Taliban was constantly engaging with Iran during their ongoing talks with the USA leading to the Peace Agreement.

“Iran’s major concern has been the increasing number of refugees into Iran and rise of Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan. Having defeated Islamic State cadres in Syria through its Shia proxies, drawn primarily from Zeinabiyoun and Fatemiyoun Brigades composed mainly of Shia Hazara’s recruited from Western Afghanistan and under tutelage of Iranian Revolutionary Guards it is only a matter of time before these are repositioned in Eastern Iran to strengthen its borders to face the threat from ISKP emanating from Afghanistan,” he explains.

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