Modi was hosting the virtual summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Tuesday as the Eurasian political and security group seeks to expand its influence by accepting Iran as a member.
He said the world is embroiled in disputes, tensions and the impact of the pandemic and global food, fuel and fertiliser crises are big challenges for all countries.
“We need to think together that are we, as a group, capable of meeting the expectations and ambitions of our people? Are we capable of facing modern challenges?” Modi said. “Is SCO becoming a group that is completely ready for the future?”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and leaders of four central Asian countries took part in the online proceedings as well as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Formed in 2001 by China and Russia, with former Soviet central Asian states as members and joined later by India and Pakistan, the eight-member SCO seeks to counter Western influence in Eurasia.
Iran is due to join as the ninth member on Tuesday and Belarus will sign a memorandum of obligations which will lead to its membership later.
When both countries, which have observer status and close ties to Moscow, are accepted as members of the SCO it will expand the grouping’s western flank in both Europe and Asia.
Speaking after Modi, China’s Xi said the focus should be on pragmatic cooperation and accelerating economic recovery.
Pakistan’s Sharif said the international community finds itself in a standstill on Afghanistan and that critical support needed by Kabul to prevent a humanitarian crisis has been withheld.
The summit takes place barely two weeks after Modi was hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden for a state visit, and the two countries called themselves “among the closest partners in the world”.
India, which holds the presidency of SCO and the G20 this year, has walked a diplomatic tightrope as relations between Western nations and a Russia-China partnership have been fraught due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year, and Beijing’s growing assertive presence in the global geopolitical theatre.
Putin spoke to Modi in a call last week in the aftermath of the mercenary mutiny. During the discussion, Modi reiterated a call for dialogue and diplomacy regarding the war in Ukraine.
Last year on the sidelines of the summit in Uzbekistan, Modi told Putin that it was not the era of war, which is the closest India has come to addressing the issue directly with the Russian leader.
Both Putin and Xi are expected to visit New Delhi in September as India hosts the G20 summit, and Biden and leaders of other member nations are also likely to be present.
India has refused to blame Russia for the war and increased bilateral trade largely by lifting purchases of Russian oil to a record high, which has irked several Western capitals.