External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar will undertake a two-day visit to Tajikistan from today, July 13 to take part in the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers, the Ministry of External Affairs informed on Monday. The meeting will discuss the achievements of the organisation as it celebrates the 20th anniversary of its formation this year, the MEA said in a statement.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi are also expected to attend these meetings. While Mr Jaishankar is expected to hold bilateral talks with foreign ministers of some participating countries on the side-lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meet, there was no official word on any bilateral interaction or pull aside with Pakistan or China. Meeting will also assess the preparation for the upcoming SCO Council of Heads of States, which will take place on September 16-17 in Dushanbe, and exchange views on current international and regional issues, MEA said.

During the visit, Jaishankar is also expected to participate in the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan on July 14. This meeting will also see the participation of the Afghanistan government to review the worsening security situation in that country amidst speedy return of American forces to the US, the MEA said. Leaders from India, Pakistan, Russia, Iran, China, the US, and the EU will be participating in the summit.

The SCO contact group meeting on Afghanistan assumes significance as it comes amidst the intense fighting near Kandahar city and the Taliban gaining control of new areas around the southern Afghan city, triggering huge security concerns. There were reports that a sizeable number of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists are also operating in the Kandahar and Helmand provinces. India has evacuated around 50 diplomats and security personnel from its consulate in Kandahar in a military aircraft in the wake of intense fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban militants.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s efforts at touching base with old northern alliance partners will take him to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan this week. According to MEA, Jaishankar was invited by Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin to visit Tajikistan.

The SCO is an eight-member economic and security bloc, seen as a counterweight to NATO. It has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations. The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. However India and Pakistan became its permanent members only in 2017.