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
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.
(Manish Chand can be contacted at email@example.com)