India’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a grouping of six countries including China and Russia, is likely to happen only after member countries clear legal procedures for expanding the group, foreign minister SM Krishna said on Wednesday.
India has had observer status with the group since 2005 which has Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan as the remaining members.
On increasing US presence in the South China sea region, Krishna said international waterways were crucial to increase trade among nations. India will work with other countries to boost trade through these waterways, he added. China, which claims much of the South China sea region, has expressed displeasure at US’s decision to expand presence in the region. Government media has lately been carrying opinion pieces urging India not to follow US policies.
On the issue of India’s SCO membership, Krishna said: “We are prepared. We are ready. We have been asking for it.” Krishna was speaking to Indian reporters after a 45-minute meeting with Vice-Premier Li Keqiang. Li is expected to be China’s next Prime Minister after the change of leadership in Communist Party of China (CPC) later this year.
“We have made known our seriousness (about joining the SCO). India’s track record in other groupings is well known. It is moving to a positive direction,” Krishna said, indicating, however, that it was difficult to specify a time frame.
India’s position has not been elevated even after Russia voicing its support for New Delhi’s inclusion in the group. Many interpret this as China not being supportive of the move.
Krishna said the sense that he got in the discussion with Li – who he said was set to assume greater responsibilities – that India’s application was moving forward.
Krishna said he expressed New Delhi’s desire to expand strategic and cooperative partnership during his meeting with Li.
Krishna said he indicated India’s desire for greater trade and investment with China but also highlighted the trade imbalance that exists between the two countries.
On the issue of the two Indian traders – Deepak Raheja and Shyam Sunder Agrawal -- fighting a legal battle over trade disputes in Shanghai, Krishna said he met the two on Wednesday and bring up the issue when he meets Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi on Thursday.
The two businessmen were abducted by Chinese traders after defaulting on payments last December. Since their release in January, the two are fighting three legal cases in Shanghai and are not allowed to leave China till the cases are over,