The entry of India and Pakistan into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) could help them to resolve their bilateral differences though there are apprehensions that their hostility could affect the unity of the China-dominated outfit, a state-run Chinese daily said. “There is some concern that the hostility between India and Pakistan might affect the organisation’s unity. However, the SCO will also become an ideal platform for members with disputes to solve their problems bilaterally based on the Shanghai Spirit,” the Global Times said yesterday quoting Li Wei, an anti-terror expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. India and Pakistan will be formally admitted into the China dominated six-nation grouping tomorrow at the SCO summit in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the summit along with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The group founded in Shanghai in 1996 is comprised of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and mostly acts as China-dominated security group especially focussing on Central Asia. India and Pakistan till now had the status of observers along with Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia in the group. The admission of India and Pakistan will enlarge the group’s footprints for the first time to South Asia from Central Asia. “India and Pakistan are accusing each other of supporting terrorism and this is generally based on their domestic political agenda and dispute. The SCO members will support them and offer help if the two countries need it, rather than internationalise their dispute within the organisation,” Li said.
“In short, the SCO is not a place for India and Pakistan to quarrel, but a platform for members to settle their disputes,” said Lin Minwang, a professor at the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University. Counter-terrorism cooperation is an important issue of the SCO, and the organisation has staged biennial military exercises code-named “Peace Mission” since 2003 to deal with the threat of “terrorism, separatism and religious extremism,” people.cn reported. The latest, “Peace Mission 2016,” was held in Kyrgyzstan in September 2016.
“All SCO members are participating in the Belt and Road initiative, and this organisation is the initiative’s security guarantee,” Wang Yiwei, senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of the Renmin University of China, said. SCO membership and the B&R initiative help Pakistan’s economic development and security, and if Pakistan becomes a wealthy and prosperous country, it would be difficult for extremism and terrorism to grow, and that would, in turn, improve conditions along the India-Pakistan border, Li said. “So I don’t think India and Pakistan should quarrel within the SCO, because they will find more reasons to cooperate,” he said.
India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads over several issues, including on Islamabad’s support to terrorism, since the terror attack on an Indian army base in Uri in Kashmir in September last year by Pakistan-based militants killed 18 Indian soldiers. Ten days later, India launched “surgical strikes” against militant “launchpads” in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The two sides were also engaged in a war of words last year over Pakistan’s provocative statements on the turmoil in Kashmir following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July last year.