India and Pakistan might be upgraded from observer status to full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) if a new legislation is passed outlining the group’s membership-granting procedure. Heads of state of the SCO including Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will meet in Tashkent, Uzbekistan to approve the procedure during their annual summit on June 10th-11th. The aim of the expansion is to involve more Asian states to help combat terrorism, drug trafficking and cross-border organised crime across the Chinese, Indian, Russian and Central Asian civilizations.
As a growing diplomatic and economic power in the region, India sees membership of the SCO as vital, not only as a lobbying group for energy and infrastructural funds and development but also for central Asian security. India, which has shown interest to join the SCO, has been encouraged by Russia to join as full-time member in order to balance the influence of China in the region and use its influence with central Asia to crack down on terrorism. Nonetheless, with China keen on Pakistan, India’s rival to join the SCO, a compromise will have to be sought to obtain regional cooperation.
When it comes to influencing Asia, India and China have until now remained apart, although their regional interests for peace, security and trade ties are similar, the two nations are both vying for regional dominance. While China is part of the SCO of which India has observer status, India is a full member of the SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) where China has observer status. If India is granted full membership of the SCO, it will be the first time the two dynamic countries are part of the same regional inter-governmental body. While India and China manage to be part of global organisations like the G20 and climate summits amicably, it’s when it comes to influence in Asia that the two nations tend to spar. It will be interesting to watch how India manages its trade agreements and foreign policy for central Asia with China, if it is granted membership.
During the annual summit, heads of state are also expected to discuss ways to deepen economic cooperation, expand trade and investment and enhance collaboration in energy, cooperation in fighting terrorism, secession, extremism, drug trafficking and organized crime. Leaders will also contemplate ways in which to resolve security issues in Afghanistan and central Asia especially in Kyrgyzstan.