India and Pakistan join SCO, China focuses on improving security

World Today

From left, front, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Secretary General Rashid Alimov, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, from left, middle row, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, other persons unidentified, pose for a photo at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Astana, Kazakstan, Friday, June 9, 2017. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Counter-terrorism and security were major points at a Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was among world leaders who attended the event, as India and Pakistan became SCO members.

CGTN’s Guy Henderson reports from Astana, Kazakhstan.
Follow Guy Henderson on Twitter @guyhendersonde

There are two new faces in a regional coalition. India and Pakistan do not stand shoulder-to-shoulder as neighbors in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation though. Far from it but some will was on display at the summit.

“As leaders we should leave a legacy of peace and amity for our future generations; not a toxic harvest of conflict and animosity. Instead of talking about containment, let us create shared spaces for all. Mr. President, I congratulate India for joining the SCO family,” Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Prime Minister said.

“Whether it is a matter of radicalization, the recruitment of terrorists, their training or financing: if all our countries do not work in a strong and coordinated manner it will be impossible to solve these issues,” Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister said.

Security was a focus as the bloc expands across central Asia, noted the Kazakh hosts and globally.

As leaders signed off on a counter-terrorism initiative, Russia brought up Syria. “I am sure we will all intensify political and diplomatic efforts to solve regional conflicts above all in the Middle East and in particular Syria. Let me stress that there are reassuring signs in the Syrian conflict,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke of security and support for Afghanistan.

“China advocates building a regional anti-terrorism constitution, to fight relentlessly drug making and trafficking. China is willing to host again the cyber anti-terrorism joint exercise. China advocates to host a regional defense and security forum, to draw a plan of cooperation in combating the three evil forces for the next three years. We ask all parties to support the peace process of Afghanistan,” the Chinese leader said.

There was also mention of an SCO free trade zone and even, at some point, a development bank. It’s a Chinese priority that hasn’t been shared by Moscow.

The SCO’s expansion gives it a reach from Eastern Europe all the way to southern Asia. But there are questions, too, about whether admitting more members to this bloc could make efforts at solidarity more difficult.

Belarus took up observer status for the first time, a country bordering NATO’s eastern flank. China backs Iranian membership with sanctions lifted with little mention of that among delegates yet.

The SCO clearly has bigger ambitions. Many of those outside the summit meeting room wondered what exactly those are and what it means for them.