India set to partner rivals Pakistan and China in SCO

09 June 2017

India will be putting itself in a more difficult situation with the country joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that also includes unfriendly neighbours China and Pakistan in a grouping of central Asian countries, including Russia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday met Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Astana, Kazakhstan ahead of India's induction as full member of the SCO along with Pakistan.

Modi also met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Thursday night and exchanged pleasantries at a cultural gala in Astana, amid frosty bilateral ties, deadlocked talks and escalation of hostilities along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.

Modi thanked Xi for China's support for India's full membership in the SCO like he did when he met Russoian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersberg.

"I got the opportunity to meet you again during the SCO summit. I am grateful to you for your efforts and support for India's SCO membership," PM Modi told the Chinese President.

"We spoke about India-China relations and how to further improve ties," Modi tweeted after his meeting with Xi.

By becoming a member of the SCO, Modi hopes to influence China's Xi, a hard core supporter of Pakistan and its terrorist outfits, and vocal opponent of India's admission into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

China had also stalled India's move to list Masood Azhar, chief of Pakistani terror outfit Jaish e Mohamad (JeM) as a global terrorist by the UN.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China, on the other hand, is expected to effectively use the SCO to sell its One Belt One Road (OBOR) idea to India and thereby sideline its opposition to China's infrastructure building in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Modi's meeting with Xi comes after the Indian prime minister met Russian President Vladimir Putin early this month in St Petersburg.

India had boycotted the OBOR conference, which was also attended by the Russian President, over its concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and passes through Gilgit and Baltistan, a region India maintains is integral to the state of J&K.

Modi and Xi are expected to meet again at the G20 summit to be held next month in Hamburg, Germany followed by BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit to be held in Xiamen, China in September.

Meanwhile China's state-run Global Times in an editorial said, "The inclusion of India and Pakistan will add to the political dimension of the SCO, whose members' value systems, characteristics of national development and core concerns, will be more diversified."

The daily said the admission of India and Pakistan has, however, created worry over whether their long-standing hostility would be brought to the SCO, instigating internal disputes.

While SCO can lay the foundations for solving divergences between the two, "it won't be an easy job. However, the organisation must face such tests as it expands", it said.

An article in the same daily said "if India and Pakistan are unable to realise mutual understanding on their disputes, including the Kashmir issue, the possibility of conflict remains high between both nations."

"Under those circumstances, it would represent the largest challenge to the SCO, and China and Russia must make more diplomatic effort to alleviate and improve India-Pakistan relations," he said.

Furthermore, the pressure from non-traditional security threats involving India and Pakistan will increase the difficulty in combating terrorism by the SCO.

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