India and Pakistan’s long-running differences over Kashmir and terrorism could destabilise the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which the two South Asian neighbours are expected to join soon, a top research body has said.
With Pakistan announcing on Thursday that it will become a member of the six-member bloc during next week’s summit in Tashkent, that disruption could begin sooner.
The SCO’s current members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, while Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have observer status. Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners.
“The SCO is scheduled to hold a summit on June 23 and 24 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan where Pakistan will join the group,” Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria has been quoted as saying.
The 2015 summit in Ufa had passed a resolution on starting the procedures for granting India and Pakistan full membership of the SCO.
Though it is expected India and Pakistan will become members of the security-focussed grouping at the same time, New Delhi is yet to make any formal announcement.
China’s top think-tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), had words of caution before the two countries join the group.
An opinion piece by Sun Zhuangzhi, secretary general of CASS’s SCO Research Centre, hinted at Beijing’s worries on the inclusion of the two countries, and the diplomatically rocky path for the multilateral forum that is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.
“Thus, observers are concerned about SCO expansion, especially the admission of India and Pakistan. The two nations, which are hostile over the issues of Kashmir and anti-terrorism, have long been locked into a state of military confrontation, and share conflicting views over the Afghanistan issue and other regional affairs,” Sun wrote in the state media on Friday.
Diplomacy within the multilateral forum could be further complicated because of the complex relationship of India and Pakistan with China and Russia, Sun wrote.
Sun was talking about the fact that while Pakistan and China are “all weather allies”, India and Russia have had close ties, especially in defence, for many decades.
“The hostility between the two states is unlikely to be dispelled in the short time. Together with their complicated relations with China and Russia, analysts believe their admission may have negative effects on the SCO, bringing more internal conflicts and lowering the level of mutual political trust and the efficiency of multilateral cooperation,” Sun wrote in the nationalist tabloid Global Times.
All, however, is not lost, the author said. Both countries, for one, attach “great importance” to SCO and have pledged to contribute on security and economic matters”.
Sun wrote: “Noticeably, expansion could also bring many benefits to the SCO. The scope of the group will be expanded from China, Russia, and Central Asian countries to South Asia, covering over 60 percent of Eurasia. In addition, more opportunities will be brought to the SCO.
“With more geopolitical and geo-economic influence, the SCO will play a vital role in the process of multi-polarisation. In the Tashkent summit, the SCO will demonstrate its special global influence again to the world.”