NEW DELHI: The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) under Russia’s presidency has drawn up an expansive agenda, from a multilateral world order to counterterrorist initiatives, as the eight-member grouping prepares to hold minister-level meetings and its summit in physical format in the months ahead.

Foreign ministers and national security advisors of the SCO states plan to meet in September in Moscow, and this could enable foreign minister S Jaishankar and NSA AK Doval to travel for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak. If they visit Moscow, it could facilitate meetings with their counterparts on the side-lines.

The SCO agenda for 2020 will be dominated by the future of Afghanistan following the US-Taliban deal, Eurasian connectivity links, counterterrorism initiatives, a multilateral world order, 75 years of the UN and its reforms, and the joint fight against Covid-19, ET has learnt.

SCO is the only multilateral body with a counterterror unit called Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), based in Tashkent. The relevance of RATS will grow as the situation in Afghanistan gets complicated with the withdrawal of US troops. Counterterrorism is a priority for Russia, India and the Central Asian states.

However, experts on SCO affairs and Eurasia pointed out that all eyes will be on how the recent Sino-Indian divergence shapes SCO meetings and the group's future agenda. The SCO meetings will provide India and China a chance to keep their communication channels open.

The summit is expected to be held in St Petersburg in October and will be followed by the SCO heads of government meeting in New Delhi at the end of November, ET has reliably learnt.

SCO provides an opportunity for India to play a role in the Afghan theatre. Simultaneously, SCO offers India a window of opportunity to be involved in Central Asia, with which New Delhi shares civilizational links, and explore new areas of strategic partnership. Russia, a founder member of SCO, and India plan to undertake joint projects in Central Asia.