(This was originally posted in Times Of India)
For the second time this year, foreign minister S Jaishankar will come face to face with his Pakistan counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Tajikistan’s Dushanbe this week for an SCO meeting that will review the worsening security situation in Afghanistan. The SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group meeting on July 13-14, which will also be attended by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, is expected to come up with a joint statement on Afghanistan where a hasty US withdrawal has emboldened the rampaging Taliban insurgents.
Afghanistan foreign minister Hanif Atmar is also expected to participate in the meeting. India has used the Contact Group meeting in the past to share its perspectives on the security situation in Afghanistan, including security challenges posed by terrorism and extremism “imposed from beyond its borders”. Jaishankar and Qureshi were together in Dushanbe in March too this year for a Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan. They didn’t have any bilateral exchange though. Official sources said there was no proposal again by either side for a meeting in Dushanbe. NSA Ajit Doval and his counterpart Moeed Yusuf also together attended a meeting of SCO NSAs last month in Dushanbe but again there was no meeting between the two. The SCO summit is also expected to be held physically this year in Tajikistan, the current chair of SCO.
On this occasion though, Jaishankar and Qureshi will face each other in back-to-back meetings as both are expected to participate in a south and central Asia connectivity meeting later this week in Uzbekistan’s Tashkent. Wang will also participate in the meeting in Tashkent. Announcing Wang’s participation in the Afghanistan Contact Group meeting, China said last week it was ready to work with all parties to “give full play to the role of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, promoting the SCO to contribute more in maintaining stability and peaceful reconstruction in Afghanistan”. The Chinese foreign ministry said it was ready to jointly promote the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, and effectively safeguard regional security and stability by stepping up efforts to combat the “three evils (terrorism, separatism, and extremism)”.