SCO set to expand, India and Pakistan to be added

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ISLAMABAD, June 6 (APP): The accession of India and Pakistan as full members of the Beijing-backed security grouping-the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), despite lingering concerns over regional rivalry between China and India, will be formally announced during its annual summit on June 8 and 9 in Astana, Kazakhstan, which will be attended by President Xi Jinping.

According to South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, the inclusion of the  two countries, who previously held observer status, will “add to the potential and the global influence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation,” China’s assistant foreign minister, Li Huilai, said on Monday.

The SCO, seen by some as a counterweight to the US- and European-led  North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), is a political and security organisation that facilitates counter-terrorism cooperation. Its members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The inclusion of India and Pakistan is expected test the group’s  internal cohesion. China will assume the rotating chairmanship of the group next year, and will now face the challenge of managing bitter relations between Pakistan and India, as well as its own rivalry with New Delhi. “I want to stress that China and India are important neighbours,” Li  told reporters on Monday, “Developing China-India relations does not only fit the interests of the two countries, but also the interests of the region and the world.”

The two Asian giants have long viewed each other with suspicion. China’s  opposition to India joining another security organisation, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, has further strained bilateral ties. Li said the question of India’s bid to join the NSG is “more complicated  than imagined” but added that China would support an eventual solution through consultations among the group’s members.

New Delhi is skeptical of China’s infrastructure projects in Pakistan  and Sri Lanka, fearing they might be used for military purposes and as an attempt to encircle India. New Delhi skipped a summit in Beijing last month on China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, an ambitious plan to promote global trade.

The two new countries will go through official procedures to become  members during the 17th Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO, Assistant Foreign Minister Li Huilai said at a news conference on Monday.

 

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