NEW DELHI (AP) — President Vladimir Putin claimed Tuesday that the Russian people were “united as never before,” as he sought to project confidence in the wake of a short-lived revolt during a meeting of a rare international organization where he can find a sympathetic audience. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting, hosted via videoconference by
NEW DELHI (AP) — President Vladimir Putin claimed Tuesday that the Russian people were “united as never before,” as he sought to project confidence in the wake of a short-lived revolt during a meeting of a rare international organization where he can find a sympathetic audience.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting, hosted via videoconference by India, offered Putin one of the few remaining platforms in international politics where he can get a sympathetic hearing. It was his first multilateral summit since an armed rebellion rattled Russia.
The Asian security grouping founded by Russia and China to counter Western alliances also welcomed Iran as a new member, bringing its membership to nine nations.
Speaking via video link from the Kremlin, Putin praised the SCO for “playing an increasingly significant role in international affairs, making a real contribution to maintaining peace and stability, ensuring sustainable economic growth of the participating states, and strengthening ties between peoples.”
He thanked the SCO nations for supporting the Russian authorities during the short-lived armed mutiny mounted by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, and said the West had turned Ukraine into “a virtually hostile state — anti-Russia.”
For Putin, the summit presents an opportunity to show he is in control after an insurrection that left some wondering about divisions among Russian elites.
“The Russian people are united as never before,” he said. “The solidarity and responsibility for the fate of the fatherland was clearly demonstrated by the Russian political circles and the entire society by standing as a united front against the attempted armed rebellion.”
Earlier speakers avoided directed references to the war, while bemoaning its global consequences.
In his opening speech to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned of global challenges to food, fuel and fertilizer supplies. Trade in all three has been disrupted by Russia’s 14-month-long war in Ukraine, but SCO members have largely avoided direct mention of the war.
He also took a veiled swipe at Pakistan, saying the group should not hesitate to criticize countries that are “using terrorism as an instrument of its state policy.”
“Terrorism poses a threat to regional peace and we need to take up a joint fight,” Modi said without naming Pakistan. India regularly accuses Pakistan of training and arming insurgent groups, a charge Islamabad denies.
In his speech, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Sharif denounced terrorism and defended his country’s role in the fight against it. “While the sacrifices made by Pakistan in fighting terrorism are without parallel, this scourge continues to plague our region and remains a serious obstacle to the maintenance of peace and stability,” Sharif said. “Any temptation to use it as a cudgel for diplomatic point scoring must be eschewed.”
Sharif also hailed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, saying it could be a “game-changer for connectivity, stability, peace and prosperity in the region.”
The SCO also includes the four Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, all former Soviet republics in which Russian influence runs deep. Pakistan became a member in 2017. Belarus is also in line for membership.
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a message to the summit that it was taking place amid growing global challenges and risks. “But at a time when the world needs to work together, divisions are growing, and geopolitical tensions are rising.”
“These differences have been aggravated by several factors: diverging approaches to global crises; contrasting views on nontraditional security threats; and, of course, the consequences of COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called on SCO members to work toward achieving “long-term peace and stability in the region,” according to a readout of his speech posted by state broadcaster CCTV.
He also called on SCO members to “focus on practical cooperation and accelerate economic recovery,” say that wants to “better synergize” the country’s Belt and Road Initiative — a trillion-dollar infrastructure investment project criticized in the West for burdening smaller countries with large amounts of debt toward China — with other nations’ own development strategies and regional cooperation initiatives.
This year’s SCO meeting is hosted by India, which became a member in 2017. It’s the latest venue for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to showcase the country’s growing global clout.
Days after his return from a high-profile visit to the United States, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday had a telephone conversation with Putin about the recent developments in Russia, India’s External Affairs Ministry said.
Modi reiterated calls for dialogue and diplomacy between Russia and Ukraine, ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said.
India has avoided condemning Russia for its war on Ukraine and abstained from voting on U.N. resolutions against Russia.
When SCO foreign ministers met in India last month, Russia’s war in Ukraine barely featured in their public remarks but the fallout for developing countries on food and fuel security remains a concern for members of the group, analysts say.
Associated Press Writer Munir Ahmed contributed from Islamabad, Pakistan, and Dasha Litvinova contributed from Talinn, Estonia.
Ashok Sharma And Krutika Pathi, The Associated Press