Welcoming India and Pakistan into the SCO, China today dismissed apprehensions that their differences could disrupt the unity of the grouping saying its charter strictly prohibits members to bring their bilateral hostility into the organisation. “As a founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), we are very happy about the membership of India and Pakistan,” China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said at a ceremony at the SCO headquarters here to formally admit the two nations as new members of the grouping. China, a dominant member of the now eight-member group, hosts the headquarters of the organisation. The SCO headquarters held a ceremony today to hoist the flags of India and Pakistan. Indian Ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale and his Pakistan counterpart Masood Khalid attended the ceremony which included jointly beating a huge SCO cooperation drum heralding the admission of their respective countries into the grouping. India and Pakistan were formally admitted as members at Kazakhstan capital Astana at the SCO summit held on June 8-9. China, Russia and Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan besides India and Pakistan are the members of the grouping. Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia are the observers. China takes over the rotating Presidency of the group this year from Kazakhstan.
Kong, who attended the ceremony, in a brief chat with reporters allayed apprehensions aired by the state-run Chinese media that entry of India and Pakistan could disrupt the unity of SCO. “In the charter of the SCO there is a clause that the hostility between the bilateral relations should not be brought to the organisation. I believe both the countries will abide by the charter of the organisation,” he said. “SCO has its own rules of procedures. We hope that those rules can be abided by all member states,” he said, adding that India-Pakistan differences should not be exaggerated. “Between our member states our interests far outweigh our differences. So, we should not exaggerate the differences between the countries as it is not good for the organisation and cooperation between member states. After becoming members, we all become members of the big family,” he said.
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China believes the entry of India and Pakistan “will guarantee very good cooperation in the organisation,” he said. “Both countries are important in the region and China, Pakistan and India are in similar stage of development. We face similar challenges. Therefore, we hope that through this organisation we can work together to overcome these challenges,” he said.
Also, he said, China has certain expectations of India’s role in the SCO. “We have expectation for the role of India in this organisation. We hope that the Indian side will give attention to its membership in this organisation and pay attention to it.” In his interaction with media, Gokhale also said SCO is important for India as it consist of China, Russia and Central Asian states. Asked about how SCO can help India and Pakistan to resolve their differences, he said both the countries have bilateral channels. “We are having number of bilateral channels. I see this as another opportunity and a platform. It helps because it enhances number of points of contacts. I think it is a good day for both the countries,” he said.
For his part, Khalid said “it is important that India and Pakistan have joined the region.” “We are part of the region. As far as Pakistan is concerned we will make all possible efforts to promote peace and stability in the region and work together as active partners within the SCO to pursue common objectives of development, peace and security. I think historic day that way,” he told PTI. About the utility of SCO to address contentious issues between India and Pakistan, the Pakistan’s envoy said, “I hope so. It provides a multilateral platform where both of our countries will be there. They will be represented. There will be opportunities for interaction.”