China wary, India bides time on SCO

FP

While External Affairs Minister S M Krishna flies Tuesday to Beijing to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on June 6 and 7, New Delhi is clear that it is ready to join as a member but the SCO must finalise its rules first.

New Delhi has been an observer in the group since 2005. While some of the rules were approved at the Kazakhstan Summit last year, other regulations are yet to be ironed out and it could be 2014 before India becomes an SCO member.

While Russia has backed full membership of India in the SCO and asked for New Delhi's as well as Pakistan's entry to be speeded up, China has cited procedural issues over expanding the grouping. However, Delhi doesn't see Beijing as blocking its membership deliberately. During his visit, Krishna is expected to meet Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang.

India is keen to participate in the SCO's counter-terror exercises and seek closer partnership in the SCO's Tashkent-based Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure (RCTS), said sources. Other SCO activities India is interested in include the meeting of trade ministers and the SCO's discussions on the situation in Afghanistan.

Also on the agenda of the SCO Summit are accepting Turkey as a "dialogue partner" and Afghanistan as an "observer". China has said it doesn't have objections to the proposals as both are "NATO-friendly countries".

Afghanistan is currently part of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, which helps SCO member states jointly contribute to reconstruction and stability in the country. Apart from India and now Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia have observer status. Turkey will join the ranks of Belarus and Sri Lanka as a dialogue partner.

The presence of Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be keenly watched. He has used the SCO platform earlier to make his voice heard.

The summit will also outline the SCO's agenda for the next decade. New Delhi will be keen to see what emerges in the "outcome document" as it will indicate China and Russia's vision ahead.

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