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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are currently in Kazakhstan for a two-day summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO is expected to admit Belarus as a new member, further expanding the club of Eurasian countries that seek to promote alternatives to the Western institutions of the U.S.-led world order.

The annual SCO leaders summit in Astana provides an important platform for Putin, especially as Russia’s conflict in Ukraine continues. It allows him to demonstrate that Russia is not isolated on the international stage.

Apart from the addition of Belarus, the summit will focus on enhancing coordination for counterterrorism in the region, particularly following a recent attack in Moscow. Security issues in Afghanistan and a proposed investment fund mechanism by Kazakhstan will also be on the agenda.

The SCO, founded in 2001, has evolved to tackle various issues like regional security and economic development. China and Russia have played significant roles in shaping the organization, cooperating more closely in recent years to counter the influence of the U.S.

Despite some concerns over the SCO’s lack of a clear mandate and substance, it remains a vital diplomatic forum for regional leaders to interact with Xi and Putin. The summit will see the presence of leaders and representatives from various non-member states, including the United Nations Secretary-General.

Notably absent from this year’s summit is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reflecting a possible waning interest in the SCO due to tensions with Pakistan and China. This could impact the organization’s potential and China’s future plans for it.

As Xi and Putin engage in discussions during the summit, the SCO continues to grow in international visibility and geopolitical significance, albeit with lingering questions about its ultimate purpose and effectiveness.

 

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