New Delhi: India will pitch for a greater role in the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and an expanded partnership with it in stabilising Afghanistan when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna goes to Beijing to participate in the grouping’s 12th summit June 6-7.
India, which currently enjoys the status of an observer along with Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia in the SCO, has been seeking full membership in the grouping for some time, but opinion is divided between Russia and China, the big two of the SCO, on this issue.
While Russia has backed full membership of India in the SCO, China has hedged and resorted to procedural niceties for expanding the SCO’s membership, delaying a decision on the issue.
India, according to government sources, feels that while the membership could take some time, it is in the meantime interested in expanding the role of observers and seeking a bigger involvement in the SCO-related activities, specially related to counter-terrorism and the discussions on Afghanistan.
India, the sources pointed out, has a strong case for membership as it enjoys robust bilateral relations with all SCO member states.
The desire for an enhanced role for the SCO will be conveyed by Krishna when he represents India at the summit that is expected to map out a vision of the organisation’s future in the next decade and discuss crucial issues, including those relating to expanding membership.
The SCO comprises Russia, China and energy-rich Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Besides the four observers, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan attend the summit as guest invitees. Sri Lanka and Belarus enjoy the status of dialogue partners.
India is keen to participate in the SCO’s counter-terror exercises and seek closer partnership in the SCO’s Tashkent-based Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure (RCTS), said the sources.
Other SCO activities India is interested in participating include the meeting of trade ministers and the SCO’s discussions on the situation in Afghanistan that has acquired added traction in view of the phased withdrawal of the international coalition’s troops from that country.
India has been batting for a regional approach towards stabilising Afghanistan and is, therefore, interested in joining the SCO’s efforts at what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called the “economic and political revival of Afghanistan”.
At the Beijing summit, the SCO leaders are expected to take a decision on Afghanistan’s application to become an observer. If the observer status for Afghanistan is cleared, the SCO’s desire to play a bigger role in stabilising that country will acquire greater momentum. (IANS)