December 7, 2022

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Putin says Russia will take all measures to stop the conflict

The war in Ukraine is highlighting divisions in Central Asia and fueling unrest in former Soviet territories

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and other participants will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Leaders’ Summit in Samarkand on September 16. (Photo: Sergey Babiliov/Pool/AFP/Sputnik/Getty Images)

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit may have offered Beijing and Moscow a chance to champion a “multipolar world order,” but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have sown divisions within the bloc and alienated some countries.

After watching Russian tanks roll into the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, Central Asian leaders from former Soviet territories worry that Russia might encroach on their territory as well.

Kazakhstan, in particular, has refused to toe Moscow’s line. It has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, whose President Kassym-Jomart Togayev has publicly refused to recognize Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, angering some Kremlin officials.

Experts say China’s refusal to condemn Russia has also created tensions among Central Asian countries. That could hinder China’s efforts to build closer ties with its Central Asian neighbors, an effort China has invested heavily in for two decades.

During Xi Jinping’s state visit to Kazakhstan on Wednesday — his first foreign trip in nearly 1,000 days — the Chinese leader sought to address these concerns.

“China will always support Kazakhstan in maintaining national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi told Dogaye, Chinese state media reported.

India, which plays a unique role in the SCO, also complicates the picture.

Delhi, which has not condemned Russian aggression like Beijing, has strong ties with Moscow dating back to the Cold War. According to some estimates, India gets more than 50% of its military equipment from Russia.

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In recent months, India has significantly increased its purchases of Russian oil, coal and fertilizers despite Western pressure to cut economic ties with the Kremlin following its aggression in Ukraine.

But Delhi has seen relations with Beijing deteriorate due to conflicts on its border, and Washington has grown closer to its allies in the Indo-Pacific. India is a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with the US, Japan and Australia, which is coming closer to China’s threats.

Modi, who arrived in Samarkand early on Friday, is expected to hold one-on-one meetings with his Russian, Uzbek and Iranian counterparts, an Indian External Affairs Ministry source told CNN.

But as per his provisional agenda, Modi has no scheduled meeting with Ji. The two leaders have not met since the India-China border standoff started over the past two years.

Last week, Delhi and Beijing began withdrawing from the Gogra-Hotsprings border area in the western Himalayas.

In addition to its territorial disputes, Delhi is also wary of Beijing’s growing economic influence over its smaller neighbours.

“Since Modi came to power, we have seen a steady deterioration of (India-China) relations,” said Manoj Kevalramani, a Chinese studies fellow at India’s Takshashila Institution.

But Kevalramani said the SCO could “provide a space (for India) to engage with China and Russia”.

“In particular, being at the table when China and Russia are together, the closer that relationship gets, the more difficult it will be for India,” he said.