Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met on Friday for a summit aimed at challenging Western influence to rally Asian leaders behind a new “international order”.
But cracks in summit solidarity soon appeared, with India’s prime minister telling Putin that it was “no time” for conflict in Ukraine.
Adding to the tension, the armies of the two countries – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – engaged in fierce border clashes while their leaders were present.
Washington said Putin’s remarks at the summit to allay “concerns” about Ukraine from China and India increased pressure on Russia to end its military offensive.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in former Soviet Uzbekistan brought together Putin and Xi, along with the leaders of SCO members India, Pakistan and four Central Asian countries, as well as the presidents of Iran and Turkey.
Putin and Xi met on Thursday for their first face-to-face talks since Russia sent troops to Ukraine in February, and on the Chinese leader’s first overseas visit since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
The summit was put forward by the Kremlin as an alternative to “Western-focused organizations” at a time of mounting pressure on Ukraine to Moscow and growing anger in Beijing over US support for Taiwan.
Xi told the assembled leaders that it was time to reshape the international order and “abandon the zero-sum game and politics of the bloc”.
“They should work together to promote the development of the international order in a more just and rational direction,” Xi told a joint session.
‘New centers of power’
Putin praised the growing influence of countries outside the West, which he called “protectionism, illegal sanctions and instruments of economic self-interest”.
“The increasing role of new centers of power cooperating with each other… is becoming more and more apparent,” Putin said.
The summit is Putin’s first major international visit since Moscow sent troops to Ukraine in February, sparking a conflict that has killed thousands and battered Russia by waves of economic sanctions.
Not everything went smoothly for the Russian leader.
In his conversation, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Putin: “Your Excellency, I know that today is not a time for war.”
Putin told Modi he was aware of India’s “concerns” about the conflict, the same language he used with Xi a day earlier.
“We will do our best to end it as soon as possible,” Putin accused Kyiv of rejecting talks.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Washington: “I think what you’re hearing from China, from India, reflects the concerns around the world about the effects of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.”
“I think it increases the pressure on Russia to end the aggression.”
Putin in ‘no hurry’ on Ukraine
But Putin later said Russia was in no hurry to end military action.
“Our offensive in the Donbass just doesn’t stop. They’re going slow … Russian forces are occupying new and new territories,” Putin told a news conference at the end of the summit.
“We’re not in a hurry… there’s no change.”
The SCO – which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – was founded in 2001 as a political, economic and security organization to rival Western institutions.
The group is not completely cohesive. The leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were forced to meet at the summit to order the withdrawal of their forces, as deadly skirmishes along their disputed border raised fears of an all-out conflict.
Both Putin and Xi also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who told the assembled leaders that “efforts are being made to finalize the conflict in Ukraine through diplomacy as soon as possible”.
Putin told Erdogan, who has been a key broker in limited deals between Russia and Ukraine, that Moscow was keen to forge closer ties with Turkey and was ready to “substantially increase” all exports to the country.
For Putin, the summit was an attempt to show that he is not completely isolated on the global scene, at a time when his forces in Ukraine are facing major setbacks on the battlefield.
For Xi, it was an opportunity to cement his credentials as a global politician ahead of a crucial Congress of the ruling Communist Party in October, where he is widely expected to secure an unprecedented third term as president. Is performed.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)