India seeks China's support for SCO membership
Beijing, June 6 (IANS) India Wednesday sought China's support for membership of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), dominated by Beijing and Moscow, and underlined that it will bring many strengths and positives into the grouping.
India's External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna held wide-ranging talks with China's Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, who is expected to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao next year, and sought China's support in becoming a member of the SCO.
"I conveyed to him India's desire to become a full-fledged member of the SCO. It was heartening to hear that the modalities of admitting new members is being worked out. The process is on," Krishna told Indian journalists in the Chinese capital.
"India has been coming to the SCO since 2005. We have made known our seriousness in joining the grouping. Otherwise, no one will be coming to these meetings since 2005," said Krishna. Underlining India's track-record in "other multilateral organizations", Krishna said: "And when India comes into a grouping or association, it brings with it many positives and strengths. That will have to be evaluated."
"We have been moving in a positive direction of finalizing the modalities," said Krishna. "We are indeed working very hard to comply with the modalities. However, things are moving very slowly," Krishna replied when asked about elaborate technical formalities and procedures the SCO firmed up for prospective members at the 11th summit in Astana, Kazakhstan last year.
The SCO comprises Russia and China, the two regional giants and permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the energy-rich Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
India, along with Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia, currently enjoys the status of observer at the SCO. Any decision on including India or expanding membership is unlikely to be taken at the 12th SCO summit in Beijing. Although Russia has backed India's full membership, China is seen to be hedging and resorting to technical procedures to what some see as an attempt to stonewall India's admission into the grouping where it enjoys pre-eminence.
Recently, China had welcomed India's prospective entry into the grouping, but said "the relevant countries should work hard towards political, legal and technical preparations for [the membership]." China has not explicitly opposed India joining the SCO, but insiders say that Beijing is looking for a deal with New Delhi whereby it becomes a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in return for getting India inside the SCO tent.
If India is admitted as a member, Pakistan, China's ally, too will be accommodated. "We are hopeful of becoming a member of the SCO. It's just a matter of time," Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told IANS.
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