The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation will be meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan over September 15 and 16.

This will be the first time that a summit will be happening in-person since the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time the in-person summit was held was back in 2019. 

The SCO was born out of the Shanghai Five, a Eurasian bloc consisting of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
and Tajikistan. In 2001, the SCO was founded and Uzbekistan joined as the sixth member. India and Pakistan were given membership status in 2017. 

The eight country organisation, soon to be nine with the inclusion of Iran, is going to be watched closely by Western spectators. There is speculation that bilateral meetings will take place between the heads of countries like China, Russia, India and Pakistan. 

Here is why the SCO summit 2022 will be important in the long run. 

Indo-China relations

There is a possibility that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping might attend a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the two day event. 

The meeting comes just days after Chinese troops withdrew from various parts of Ladakh that India claims as its own, including PP-15. It was the fourth round of disengagements but the spotlight will now shift to areas along the Line of Actual Control which are still contested, like  Depsang in the Daulet Beg Oldi sector and Charding Nullah Junction in the Demchok sector.

China’s future leadership

Xi’s attendance at the summit is a surprise to all involved. The Communist Party Congress is next month and the two-term president elect Xi will be running for the third time. Earlier, the position had a two-term limit in an attempt to prevent a dictatorship like Mao Zedong’s from forming.

However, with the removal of the term limit back in 2018, nothing stops the Chinese politician from running. Xi’s presence in Samarkand can be viewed as a signal that he is confident of his political position back home, breaking precedent of established politics in China. 

China-India-Russian Relations

The heads of state of China and India might also be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. With the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, India has found itself in a prime diplomatic position. The sub-continental country has so far refused to take a stand on the ongoing war, instead preferring to persistently ask for a diplomatic resolution and an end to the violence. 

China’s meeting with Russia, should it happen, will likely signal warming relations between two nations that constantly find themselves at odds with the West and what they see as as American hegemony. Russia is dealing with mounting losses in Ukraine, while China is struggling with an economic slowdown. 

China has emerged as a major buyer of Russian commodities though it is still cautious about openly displaying an affinity for Moscow. The country is keen to compete with the United States, especially in the business of semiconductors. However, should Beijing provide Russia with any substantial help, it risks running afoul of Western sanctions, further endangering a teetering economy. 

Xi risks hurting his own position politically in a country already still clawing its way back from economically devastating COVID-19 lockdown policies, if Putin’s dominance in Russia dips. Alternatively, Beijing could let Russia sort out their setbacks on their lonesome. 

Both options hold risk for China, but experts predict that the country will continue on the middle path, providing economic assistance via purchases of commodities without circumventing Western sanctions or providing blatant military assistance. 

If nothing else, Xi’s appearance in Samarkand will play out well for the nationalist crowd back home, cementing his dominance and signalling to Putin that he values their alliance.