SCO summit 2017: India, Pakistan to become full members as China looks to cement OBOR support

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit, 2017, will be held from 8-9 June in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The group, which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as full members. Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have an observer status.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at SCO summit 2016. Twitter/MIB_India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at SCO summit 2016. Twitter/MIB_India

This summit is particularly important for India and Pakistan because they will be formally admitted into the group. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying hopes that the admission of New Delhi and Islamabad as full members would help improve their bilateral relations.

The SCO was founded with the aim to strengthen relations among member states and promote cooperation in political affairs, economics and trade. China hopes that India and Pakistan will also mend their ties and uphold the spirit of the SCO after becoming members.

However, Chinese experts have said that Beijing won't back any attempts to internationalise the two countries' bilateral disputes. "SCO members will support them and offer help if the two countries need it, rather than internationalise their dispute within the organisation," said Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations

In the 2015 summit in Ufa in Russia, the group had formally adopted a resolution which started the procedure to admit India and Pakistan into the SCO. Both the countries signed Memorandum of Obligations to join the organisation last year.

With the inclusion of the two countries, SCO will become a regional organisation with the largest coverage involving the biggest population, Hua added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to meet Chinese president Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit in a bid to stabilise ties. This will be the first time the leaders are meeting since New Delhi abstained from Beijing’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) forum. The meeting is expected to take place on Friday.

The SCO members are also expected to back China's OBOR initiative "All SCO members are participating in the Belt and Road initiative, and this organisation is the initiative's security guarantee," India Today quoted Wang Yiwei, a scholar at Renmin University, as saying.

China also supports Iran's membership to the SCO security bloc and the subject is expected to be discussed at the summit on Thursday. The SCO refused to initiate Iran's accession last year despite a request from Russia which backs Tehran's bid.

"China highly appraises this. China welcomes and supports Iran's wish to become a formal member of the SCO,” said Assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Li Huilai.

Responding to speculations of a meeting between Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said, "talks and terror cannot go together". She ruled out the possibility of any meeting between the leaders when they attend the SCO summit.

Sharif, however, is expected to meet other participating leaders, including Russian president Vladimir Putin.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Jun 07, 2017 16:03 PM

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