New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: India on Monday will host the 19th meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's (SCO)Council of Heads of Government in a virtual format. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend the event, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said, adding that it will be chaired by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.

Interestingly, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will also skip the meeting. Islamabad has informed that its Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs will attend the event on behalf of Khan.

Meanwhile, this is the first time that India will chair the high-level SCO meeting since it gained full membership of the organisation in 2017. New Delhi has said that it hopes to strengthen greater trade, economic and cultural cooperation within the SCO "by putting human beings at the centre of SCO activities and to foster greater peace and prosperity in the region" by chairing the event.

"India considers the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as an important regional organization to promote cooperation in the areas of peace, security, trade, economy, and culture. India is committed to widening our cooperation with SCO by playing a proactive, positive, and constructive role in the organization," the MEA had said in a statement.

"We hope that India's initiatives will not only be helpful for the SCO Member States in overcoming the economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic but will also signal our continued commitment to strengthening the organization," the statement read.

The SCO, formed in 2001 by five members, is seen as a counterweight to NATO. The organisation currently has eight members and four observers. India on June 9, 2017, gained its full membership. In 2019, it assumed the Chairmanship of the SCO Council of Heads of Government.

Earlier this year, the country had hosted the meeting of SCO Ministers responsible for External Economy and Foreign Trade on October 28 and the meeting of SCO Ministers for Justice on 16th October in the video-conference format.

(With ANI inputs)

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma