China officially announced on Monday that President Xi Jinping will travel for the first time out of the country in over two years this week to visit Kazakhstan and attend the SCO summit being held in Uzbekistan.
Xi will attend the 22nd meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the city of Samarkand, and pay state visits to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan from September 14 to 16, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced here in a brief statement.
He would first visit Kazakhstan on September 14, which will be his first visit abroad since January 17-18. Myanmar was the last country Xi visited on January 17-18, 2020.
Just days after his return, China had announced the massive outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, which later spiralled into a global pandemic resulting in millions of deaths around the world.
Since then, Xi, 69, has not ventured out of China and has attended global events virtually.
From Kazakhstan, Xi would travel to the neighbouring Uzbekistan where the SCO summit is scheduled to be held on September 15-16.
The Beijing-headquartered SCO is an eight-member economic and security bloc consisting of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
After the Samarkand summit, where Iran was expected to formally be admitted into the SCO, India will take over the Presidency of the influential grouping of Central Asian Republics.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to attend the SCO summit. Russian officials have announced that Putin and Xi will meet on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Samarkand, which will be their first visit since Moscow attacked Ukraine in February this year.
Prime Minister Modi will visit Uzbekistan on September 15-16 to attend the SCO and is also likely to hold a few bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement on Sunday.
At the invitation of Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Prime Minister Modi will be visiting Samarkand on September 15-16 to attend the 22nd Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the MEA said.
The first in-person SCO summit since 2019 will be watched closely for the possibility of bilateral meetings on the sidelines with Chinese President Xi, Russian President Putin, and Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif among the leaders expected to attend.
While there was no official word on whether Modi will have a meeting with Xi or Sharif, it will be after a long time that all these leaders will be at the same venue in person for a summit meeting.
It will be the first time Modi and Xi will come face to face after their meeting at Brasilia on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in 2019.
Since then, relations between the two sides nosedived over the incursion of Chinese troops in Eastern Ladakh in May 2020, leading to a prolonged military standoff that is still continuing.
China and India on Thursday announced the disengagement of their troops from the Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hot springs area of eastern Ladakh in a "coordinated and planned way."
The disengagement was officially announced to be completed on Monday.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process last year on the north and south banks of Pangong lake and in the Gogra area.
The disengagement in the Pangong Lake area had taken place in February last year while the withdrawal of troops and equipment in Patrolling Point 17 (A) in Gogra took place in August last year.
The 16th round of military talks was held 10 days after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Bali, Indonesia.
The Eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas.
Both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.
This will be the first in-person summit after June 2019 when the SCO summit was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
The 2020 Moscow summit was held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic while the 2021 summit at Dushanbe was conducted in a “hybrid mode”.
(With PTI inputs)