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'SCO might go the Saarc way after India and Pakistan join'

As India and Pakistan prepare to join the China and Russia-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in an upcoming summit in Russia, there is concern in Beijing that if the two countries end up squabbling on bilateral issues, the efficiency of the multilateral platform could suffer.

world Updated: Jul 07, 2015 10:03 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

As India and Pakistan prepare to join the China and Russia-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in an upcoming summit in Russia, there is concern in Beijing that if the two countries end up squabbling on bilateral issues, the efficiency of the multilateral platform could suffer.

The process of India and Pakistan joining the SCO will begin at the summit where President Xi Jinping with be participating, Cheng Guoping, vice-foreign minister, said on Monday.

“As the influence of the SCO's development has expanded, more and more countries in the region have brought up joining the SCO,” Cheng said.

China, Russia and the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are the members of the bloc whereas India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia are observers at present.

“India and Pakistan's admission to the SCO will play an important role in the SCO's development. It will play a constructive role in pushing for the improvement of their bilateral relations,” the minister said.

But there is simultaneous worry here as well.

“Not sure whether the SCO will become clumsier or less efficient (after the two countries join). The guiding principles of SCO say, it will be built on consensus. Like Asean+. If the differences between India and Pakistan are brought to the forum….see what happened to Saarc,” Hu Shisheng, director at the government-funded China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations and South Asia expert told HT.

A worried Hu said it should be made a prerequisite before the two countries join that they will not bring their bilateral differences to the table.

“They cannot bring bilateral differences (to SCO). Otherwise, the group will become dysfunctional. The focus should adding value to the forum. Not the other way around. That is the genuine hope of the old members,” Hu said, adding that what augurs well is that India does not have a history of taing bilateral issues to multilateral forums.

He said New Delhi and Islamabad should use the forum to project their image in the region.

Giving the example of Afghanistan, Hu said after the membership of the two countries nearly all neighbours of the country would be part of one bloc, where even Iran is an obserbver.

“The SCO will become much more qualified to discuss the Afghan issue,” Hu said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Moscow for a summit of the BRICS group will in fact meet Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, at an SCO “outreach” session as part of the gathering.