India, Pakistan to start process of getting SCO membership: China

Ending weeks of speculation over the inclusion of India and Pakistan as the permanent members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a top Chinese diplomat has confirmed that the two countries will begin the process of joining the Eurasian grouping, which is currently led by China and Russia.

The SCO currently includes China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan as its permanent members, while India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Mongolia have the status of observers. 

“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,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said.

Founded in 2001 in Shanghai, the the SCO started off as a security-centric organisation to fight the trinity of evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism.

The upcoming SCO summit meeting, which will be attended by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping among others, will also see a detailed discussion on the issue of security and stability in Afghanistan in the backdrop of the unfolding transition in the country.  

Mr Modi is likely to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the SCO summit, where the two are expected to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues.

The inclusion of India and Pakistan as full members of the SCO is expected to complicate equations with the Eurasian group, but if handled deftly the SCO could provide a forum for the two nuclear-armed rivals to forge cooperative relations on regional issues like stability in Afghanistan.