India set to get inside SCO tent, focus on terror

sco-pixRussia will be hosting the twin summits at Ufa – BRICS and SCO – on July 8-9. It’s expected to be a big moment for Russia as Moscow, reeling under Western sanctions on account of its Ukraine actions, signals to the world that it still has friends and partners across a wide swathe of the developing world.

For India, too, the Ufa summit will be a milestone of sorts, albeit for different reasons. The long wait has ended: New Delhi is expected to be elevated from an observer to full-fledged member in this Eurasian organization.

The induction of the world’s largest democracy and Asia’s third largest economy is expected to provide more heft to the grouping which has been dominated by Russia and China since its founding more than a decade ago.

It’s not India alone, but Pakistan is also expected to be ushered inside the SCO tent as a full member, largely due to vigorous advocacy by its all weather-friend China. The Ufa summit will prioritize the applications of India and Pakistan for full-fledged membership in the SCO, said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Apart from the SCO enlargement, the other focus area at the summit would be ambitious trans-regional connectivity projects. Russia and China are discussing a formal integration between China’s Silk road Economic Belt (SREB) and Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) under the auspices of SCO. The proposal remains a work in progress, and the outcome will be clearer only at the summit.

Enhancing connectivity in the region will be a key priority. The Transport Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization recently approved a protocol on the creation of a joint commission to promote international cargo transportation by motor vehicles traveling through the SCO countries.

Many initiatives and ideas will be competing for attention of leaders at the SCO summit in Ufa. The SCO countries are expected to forge closer regional cooperation in combating terrorism and taking on the Islamic State. Most important, the world will be watching the big picture as the SCO summit endorses a blueprint for development of the organization.

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