India, Pakistan can’t turn SCO into an arena for their fighting: Chinese experts


The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation will not become a platform for India and Pakistan to “internationalise” their disputes, Chinese experts have said, amid concerns that the two’s inclusion could hit the Eurasian bloc’s cooperation.

India and Pakistan are set to become full members of the China-led organisation for political, economic and military cooperation at the end of a two-day summit beginning on June 8 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

“...the SCO is not a place for India and Pakistan to quarrel, but a platform for members to settle their disputes,” Lin Minwang from the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University told Chinese state media.

Experts here have feared that the unity and work of the group could be hit if the two countries begin squabbling over Kashmir and terrorism.

“India and Pakistan are accusing each other of ‘supporting terrorism,’ and this is generally based on their domestic political agenda and dispute. SCO members will support them and offer help if the two countries need it, rather than internationalise their dispute within the organisation,” Li Wei from the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) told the state-run tabloid, Global Times.

Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue, however, cannot be ruled out especially now that it is part of a group led and mentored by China, its all-weather ally and benefactor.

It remains to be seen how India will handle the eventuality.

With the new admissions, SCO’s reach will now cover large parts of south Asia. The group’s current members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

“Member states of the SCO are accelerating legal processes. Everything is going on smoothly. Now, the SCO will complete the first membership expansion since its establishment. It will become regional organisation with largest coverage involving the biggest population in the world,” Hua Chunying, Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson, said last week.

Chinese diplomats say with India and Pakistan on board, the SCO will cover three-fifths of the Eurasian continent with nearly half the world’s population. It will make the regional organisation the biggest in terms of area and population and further improve its potential for cooperation and representation.

“The accession of India and Pakistan will add to the SCO’s international reputation and allow the bloc to better coordinate the positions of its member states on various issues, so as to enhance their cooperation,” Askar Nursha, a researcher of Kazakhstan’s Institute of World Economy and Politics said.

Counterterrorism is one avenue where experts see gains. SCO members stage biennial military exercises “Peace Mission” since 2003 to deal with the threat of “terrorism, separatism and religious extremism,” reported. The latest, “Peace Mission 2016,” was held in Kyrgyzstan in September 2016.

Li spoke about the “Shanghai Spirit” trumping the hostility between India and China and giving the two countries a platform to resolve disputes.

“The ‘Shanghai Spirit’ as the founding values of the SCO, features mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity and pursuit of common development,” official news agency, Xinhua, said in a commentary.

Besides the new memberships, there will be sharp focus at the summit on the possible meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi with President Xi Jinping and between Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.

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