There’s been an unexpected change for the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, which India is hosting in early July. It will now be a virtual gathering, instead of in-person.
India is offering no official reason for the switch. But there’s plenty of speculation that Vladimir Putin’s fear of foreign travel is the main reason for moving the meeting online. Putin has been reluctant to leave Russia since he was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
According to a report in the Indian daily The Hindu, the hosts also hadn’t received firm commitments from the leaders of China and Pakistan that they would be attending. In addition, there were questions about whether the venue being built to host the summit would be finished in time. “India remains committed to play a positive and constructive role in the organization and looks forward to a successful SCO summit as the culmination of its chairmanship,” an Indian Foreign Ministry statement, referring to the upcoming gathering.
The move to an online format is not unprecedented. SCO Leaders met virtually during the covid pandemic. But last year’s SCO conclave in Samarkand was an in-person affair.
Meanwhile, Kazakh representatives attended a meeting of foreign ministers in the BRICS+ format. Kazakh First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kairat Umarov noted that Kazakhstan’s interest in the meeting was linked to its current chairmanship of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and its future chairmanship of the SCO, according to a report published by Forbes.kz. BRICS is an economic club comprising China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa.
Kazakhstan serves as the gateway for about 80 percent of the dry goods being exported by China to Europe, according to Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reports. A major export spur now is the Trans-Caspian route, which is being integrated into China’s Belt & Road network, Xinhua adds.
On May 31, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure reported that during the first four months of 2023, the volume of freight traffic between Kazakhstan and China reached 8.8 million tons, an increase of almost 33 percent over the same period the previous year. The two countries are working to streamline border-crossing procedures to shorten transit times.
Since resuming in April after a two-year hiatus, Kazakhstan has shipped over 140,000 tons of grain to China, according to the news outlet ElDala.kz. Kazakh officials are hoping grain exports can reach 100,000 tons in June, however the publication notes that “problems remaining on the railway tracks hinder the increase in deliveries.”
According to the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the transit time for dry goods imported on trucks from China via Kazakhstan is falling from seven to five days, thanks new construction projects that bypass bottlenecks. Two projects are currently underway to shorten the road route - the Big Almaty Ring Road that will speed trucking around the Kazakh commercial capital Almaty, and a road to the Togliatti bypass and a bridge across the VolgaRiver.
Kazakh energy company JSC NC KazMunayGas and the Chinese company Sinopec will engage in joint geological exploration of 17 "major and little-studied sedimentary basins." The two companies will also jointly build a plant to produce polyethylene. A Russian company, SIBUR, will also be part of the plant construction consortium.
Construction work on the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway may start later this year, according to a report published by YiCaiGlobal, citing Umidulla Ibragimova, head of the marketing and logistics department of Uzbekistan Temir Yollari (Uzbekistan Railways). Uzbek and Kyrgyz officials announced in May that a feasibility study for the rail route had been completed.
A Chinese company, Goldwind, has installed the first wind turbine of what is envisioned as Central Asia’s largest wind farm in Uzbekistan’s Navoi region, according to a Ministry of Energy statement. The ministry states that the 4.7 MW turbine is part of a 500 MW power plant under construction. “In total, 111 wind turbines will be installed within the framework of this project,” the statement notes. “The first capacities of the wind farm will be put into operation by the end of this year.”
According to the Uzbek Transport Ministry, logistics centers are to be built in Andijan, Syrdarya and Tashkent by the Chinese company Taitong International. The new facilities will contribute “to the efficient movement of goods within Uzbekistan and beyond,” the UPL24 news service reported.
Uzbekistan’s Republican Commodity and Raw Materials Exchange, Trustbank and the Chinese bank Zheshang Bank have signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate exchange settlements. The UzDaily newspaper noted that the deal can help companies “to quickly make purchases through open exchange auctions.”
The World Bank will help Kyrgyz exporters place their goods on electronic platforms in China, Uzbekistan and other countries, the press service of the National Investment Agency announced.
The Cabinet of Ministers’ press service reported that Cabinet Chairman Akylbek Japarov toured the site of the future cascade of hydroelectric power plants on the Sary-JazRiver, where “it is planned to build six hydroelectric power stations with a total capacity of 1,100 MW together with the People’s Republic of China.”