India is set to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) — a Eurasian alliance widely seen as a counter to the America-led Nato — this month, soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi gets back from his June 7-8 US visit.
Along with India, Pakistan will be accepted as a member of the grouping that comprises China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The neighbours have been SCO observers since 2005.
The SCO — a strategically important political, economic and military organisation — has a geographic sweep stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf.
“The SCO envisages a wide range of cooperation, including closer military and security cooperation among members. Such cooperation between India and Pakistan under the SCO canopy would help address the neighbours’ trust deficit,” former diplomat and strategic affairs expert MK Bhdarakumar told HT.
Membership to the SCO would also give the Indian and Pakistani armies the unique opportunity of participating in the grouping’s annual military exercises together, he added.
But some of the positions the SCO holds, such as on the South China Sea conflict, run contrary to the stands taken by the US and Japan — two countries India is getting closer to.
The SCO also holds China’s ambitious one-belt one-road project — an economic land belt connecting countries originally part of the Silk Road through central Asia, West Asia and Europe, and a maritime road linking China’s ports with the African coast through the Suez Canal — in a positive light while India isn’t so enthused.
The decision to make India and Pakistan SCO members was announced last year. Last week, SCO foreign ministers decided in Tashkent to “submit the memorandum of obligations” for their entry to the Council of Heads of State for deliberation and signing.
The SCO summit will be held in the Uzbek capital on June 23-24. It is yet to be decided if PM Modi himself or some other leader will represent India at the summit, officials said. The summit will also discuss giving full membership to Iran.
Besides the six members, the SCO counts Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia and Belarus as observer countries while Turkey, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal are dialogue partners.