Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to Samarkand, Uzbekistan for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit comes at an important point for our state. The current government has managed its relationships with allies and partners in the international community well so far. Key examples include securing financial support from states such as Saudi Arabia, thawing relations with the US—the announced support in maintenance of our F-16 fleet a prime example—and the continued partnership with China.

But the floods and the already-dire economic situation require improved trade and investment partnerships with even more states than before. A forum such as the SCO is the perfect opportunity to find ways to work for mutual benefit. We have already seen our relationship with both Uzbekistan and Russia improve over the years, and the SCO is undoubtedly a contributor to this.

This two-day visit to Samarkand will include sideline meetings with the heads of government of Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey, but it is hoped that other countries will also be added to this list.

The foreign office has already announced that India will not be on the schedule of the sideline meetings. This is for the best, given the tumultuous situation around Kashmir. But the onus will be on New Delhi to perhaps seek some sort of contact with Pakistan in the coming year since the next edition of this summit is scheduled to be hosted in India. Though in all likelihood, this will probably mean that the Indian government might look to initiate some semblance of contact once the next government comes in after this term expires.

The SCO is an important engagement for regional dialogue. With the region mired in conflict and acrimony, it is important to make use of this summit to find opportunities with partners such as Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan and open up new avenues for trade and investment.