EGMONT IN THE PRESS - Source : Associated Press of Pakistan
28 Aug. 2013

Pakistan, India, Afghanistan likely to become SCO members: Zaki

28 Aug. 2013

ISLAMABAD, Aug 28 (APP): Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Mongolia are expected to become full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at its next summit, said former Secretary General of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Akram Zaki on Wednesday. Speaking at an international conference entitled “SCO’s Role in Regional Stability: Prospect of Its Expansion” organized by Islamabad  Policy Research Institute here, Akram Zaki said China and the Russian Federation had supported Pakistan, India and other countries’s membership of the SCO.
The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and military organization, which was founded in Shanghai in 2001 replacing the Shanghai Five that came into being in 1996.
At present Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are members of the SCO while Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia and Iran have observer status and Turkey, Sri Lanka and Belarus are dialogue partners. The upcoming summit of the SCO will be held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on September 13.
Zaki said the criteria for admission of new members was decided in 2010 and 2011.
Pakistan, which was admitted to the SCO as observer in 2005, has attended its several meetings and pleaded the case for full membership.
Participation in the SCO meetings has provided Pakistan the opportunity to increase contacts and cooperation with the Russian Federation, Zaki noted.
Experts and officials from Pakistan, Germany, Tajikistan, Belgium, Kyrgyzstan and China participated in the seminar.
Deputy Secretary General of Shanghai Cooperation Organization Mirzosharif Jalolov said people-to-people contacts were important to make multilateral cooperation at SCO meaningful.
He said besides focusing on security issues, the SCO had cooperative arrangements in areas of banking, trade and business.
The experts observed that the SCO, which started as an organization  to resolve security concerns, cross border terrorism, and extremism, gradually moved towards political issues and economic and cultural cooperation.
They agreed that the SCO had played a positive role in reducing tensions, settling border disputes, maintaining stability and developing cooperation among the member states.
They termed the withdrawal of ISAF and US forces from Afghanistan  in 2014 an important timeline, saying that maintaining peace and stability in that country was vital to ensure regional security.
Thomas Renard, senior research fellow at the Royal Institute of International Relations, Belgium, said the European Union was willing to engage the SCO but at present no mechanism of cooperation existed between the two organizations.
Wang Shida, Assistant Research Fellow at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, Beijing, emphasised that China  wanted to ensure peaceful environment outside its borders for its own economic development.
China keenly wants peace and stability in Afghanistan, he said and added that it increased its bilateral trade with Afghanistan from $ 250 million in 2002 to $ 500 million in recent years.