India will be admitted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) during the summit of the regional grouping on June 8-9 in Kazakhstan, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be present.
The prime minister is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit at Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana. However, there is no meeting scheduled between Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
Pakistan will also be admitted as a full member of the SCO along with India during the Astana summit.
“Indications are that the last leg of the entire process, as per the Memorandum of Obligations, which is the confirmation (of membership) by the heads of the states of the existing members of the SCO, is going to happen in Astana,” G V Srinivas, joint secretary of the Eurasia division in the MEA, said.
Modi will also attend the World Expo 2017, an international exposition, in Kazakhstan.
Srinivas said that there could be a couple of more bilateral meetings between India and heads of the member states.
Apart from China, there is also the possibility of a meeting between India and Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is the largest supplier of uranium to India.
When asked whether Modi would meet Xi on the sidelines of the SCO summit, MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay said, “There is a possibility, but the schedule is being worked out and our missions are coordinating locally.”
On Modi and Sharif’s meeting, he said, “External Affairs Minister (Sushma Swaraj) has already said that there was neither any request from their side nor any such proposal from our side. There is no change in the status on this.”
Srinivas said India had been an observer country at the SCO since 2005 and had applied for a full membership in 2014.
Founded in 2001, the SCO currently has six members— China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and is headquartered in Chinese capital of Beijing.
During Modi’s visit to St Petersburg earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin had conveyed to India about its admission as a full member of the SCO.
Highlighting the advantages of joining the regional grouping, Srinivas said one of the aspects deals with economy, connectivity and trade, while another aspect focuses on terrorism which includes protection of classified information. He said 38 different documents have been signed by India to be a part of the body.
On being asked that the SCO summit statement of 2015 had a reference to the Belt and Road Forum (BRF), a Chinese initiative opposed by India, the official said the aspect was not part of the 38 documents signed by India to become a member of the grouping.
The One Belt One Road (OBOR) project under the Belt and Road Forum seeks to connect China with Europe, Asia and Africa. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is also a part of the project.
India opposes CPEC as it passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
India also hopes to benefit from Tashkent-based Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (RATS).
“There is little possibility of India staying out of such an exercise. We hope that as we join the RATS, we will be able to benefit from this collaboration against our fight against terrorism. They (RATS) do a series of activities, including joint exercises in fighting terrorism, maintaining a data bank of terrorists and undesirable elements etc,” Srinivas said.
Responding to a query on whether or not India would be invited to participate in any anti-terror exercise alongside Pakistan and China, Baglay said, “We work with many countries, including Pakistan, as well as in UN peacekeeping operations. Terrorism is a fight which is incumbent on the entire humanity, not just countries.”
Srinivas also underlined the importance of “connectivity” after becoming a full member of the SCO.
“Connectivity for example is the prime desire for the country as we want to connect to central Asia,” he said.
For better connectivity with Central Asia, the official said India has also applied for a membership of the Ashgabat agreement.
The Ashgabat agreement is a multi modal transport agreement between Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan for creating an international transport and transit corridor, facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
Baglay said the SCO has member states who are neighbours to Afghanistan and it will be an institutional forum where India can engage with these nations.