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Key takeaways as China urges solidarity with Russia, India and other Shanghai Cooperation allies

New Delhi — China's Xi Jinping urged the leaders of Russia, Iran and other allied allies to boost ties and resist Western sanctions on Tuesday as the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization met virtually for a summit hosted by India. The Shanghai alliance encompasses a vast stretch of the globe from Moscow to Beijing and includes around half the world's population when observer and "dialogue partner" nations are included.

Alongside Russia, China, India and brand-new member Iran, the other full members of the trade and security alliance are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Russian ally Belarus, which holds observer status, was also told it would become a member at the next SCO summit.

Below are some of the main points made by the bloc's leaders on Tuesday, and what's behind them.

Putin thanks allies for support during "rebellion"

Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked his Shanghai organization partners for their support during a brief, failed mutiny staged by the head of the Wagner mercenary group. Putin spoke via video link at the meeting, which was his first summit since Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered units from his private army — which has been a key component in Russia's war in Ukraine for a year — to march on Moscow after accusing Russia's military commanders of treason and ineptitude. 

"Russia is confidently resisting and will continue to resist external pressure, sanctions and provocations," Putin said, adding his thanks to the other SCO nations for their support during the Wagner putsch attempt, which he previously labelled a "rebellion."

Ukraine top security official says Vladimir Putin's own generals are working against him 02:10

"I would like to thank my colleagues from the SCO countries who expressed support for the actions of the Russian leadership to protect the constitutional order and the life and security of citizens," he said.

China and Russia have in recent years ramped up economic cooperation and diplomatic contacts, with their strategic partnership having only grown closer since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last year.  

China wants to "ensure common security"

During the virtual meeting, Xi "called for efforts to safeguard regional peace and ensure common security," China's state news agency Xinhua said, adding that he urged SCO member states to "enhance their solidarity."

While China says it is a neutral party to the Ukraine conflict, it has been criticized by Western nations for refusing to condemn Moscow's offensive, and accused by current and former U.S. officials of supporting Putin's war effort by buying more Russian energy and other goods since the invasion began.

China's new anti-espionage law poses threat to U.S. companies in China 02:05

"We must be highly vigilant against external forces fomenting a 'new Cold War' and creating confrontation in the region, and resolutely oppose any country interfering in internal affairs and staging a 'color revolution' for any reason," Xi said, referring to pro-Western popular uprisings in Eastern Europe in recent decades — most notably in Ukraine.

"Strengthening unity" with Iran

Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a full member on Tuesday, with Tehran having intensified its diplomacy with friends and foes alike in recent months, seeking to reduce its isolation, improve its economy and project strength.

Tehran's membership will support "collective security... expanding ties and communications (and) strengthening unity," Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said.

Iran's membership will feed concerns of some Western critics who worry about "Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran coming together, so there is a collection of countries that are inherently anti-Western in their orientation," said Harsh V. Pant, a professor at King's College London. But he added that the SCO was not that organization.

"If this kind of an axis is to be formed, it will be formed independent of the SCO, because the Central Asians and countries like India do not see SCO as inherently anti-West," Pant told AFP.

Security concerns over Taliban-run Afghanistan

During the summit, the leaders of regional arch-rivals India and Pakistan said their other neighbor, Afghanistan, remained a key concern.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned of the risk of Afghanistan serving as a base to "spread instability," while his Pakistani counterpart Shehbaz Sharif called for an "urgent reset" in international engagement with Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.

Taliban bans women in Afghanistan from university education 05:34

Since retaking power over Afghanistan when the U.S. and its allies withdrew in the summer of 2021, the hard-line Islamic Taliban movement has robbed women and girls of virtually every right they'd gained in the 20 years since they were last ousted from power by the U.S.-led invasion.

The group's draconian policies and rampant human rights abuses have seen their de-facto Afghan government all but cut off from most of the world, with millions of dollars in cash reserves frozen and the a long list of sanctions in place. The circumstances for the Afghan people, meanwhile, have deteriorated significantly, with 

India's balancing act

India, which also hosts the G-20 summit in September, is walking a diplomatic tightrope.

Uniquely, it is a member of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and "The Quad," a small cooperative group set up with the United States, Japan and Australia to counter Beijing's growing assertiveness.

Biden, Modi sidestep questions about humanitarian concerns in India 06:31

Last month, Modi was hosted in Washington with the full pomp of a state visit, and President Biden spoke of "two great friends and two great powers."

But Moscow remains by far India's biggest arms supplier — they have been allies for decades — and New Delhi has been an enthusiastic buyer of cut-price Russian oil during the war in Ukraine.

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