Narendra Modi with Vladimir Putin
INDIA and Pakistan inched closer last Friday (24) to joining a regional security and economic bloc led by Russia and China, a move seen to boost the importance of the organisation.
“We expect that our partners will be able to accede as quickly as possible, by our next meeting in Kazakhstan” next year, Russian president Vladimir Putin said after the two countries signed memorandums on joining, the Kremlin website said.
Putin spoke at the summit in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent of the bloc, known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Putin added it was time to “work closely” on ensuring India and Pakistan are integrated into the organisation’s cooperation mechanisms, which include regular meetings between member states’ foreign ministers and heads of government.
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi thanked Putin for his “constructive role” in his country’s bid to join SCO, after Putin had said India’s accession would allow for closer cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi, the website said.
Putin told Chinese state news agency Xinhua ahead of the summit that the accession of India and Pakistan would increase the organisation’s “relevance, both in the region and worldwide”.
Uzbek president Islam Karim told local media last Friday (24) that the accession negotiations for Pakistan and India had been “difficult” but that organisation members had managed to reach a compromise.
The SCO – whose members also include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – is mainly focused on security, although critics say it has done little to prepare the region’s
weaker states for potential fallout from instability in Afghanistan on the bloc’s southern border.
Commentators have viewed the bloc as a vehicle for managing Russia and Chinese interests in Central Asia, which often appear to be at odds.