India on Tuesday promised enhanced interest in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which had remained a low priority area for several years till Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led a delegation at its previous summit.

At a two-hour meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China here on Tuesday, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna informed his two counterparts that New Delhi was keen on participating in several of the SCO’s sectoral deliberations, especially those on economic activities, counter-terrorism and Afghanistan.

Significantly, many SCO members share borders with Afghanistan and have a stake in its stabilisation to curb the flow of narcotics and the ideology of radical Islam.

Diplomats here said Russia, at recent bilateral interactions, had been persuading India to take a more active role on the regional stage in curbing narcotics and terrorism as it also stood to be affected by their spread. At the RIC meeting, it pointed out that the SCO would be an obvious forum for this because two (Russia and China) are members, while one (India) is an observer.

Officially, New Delhi had explained its earlier lack of enthusiasm in the SCO because of the limited role of observer countries. Taking note of India’s views, the SCO, encouraged by Russia and China, modified some of the engagement rules leading to Dr. Singh’s participation in the SCO summit for the first time.

With the interest shown by Mr. Krishna of participating in the SCO’s sectoral activities, Russia and China welcomed India’s “constructive engagement,” as also expressed “satisfaction” over the presence of Dr. Singh at the SCO, which was his first visit abroad after taking over as Prime Minister for the second time.

Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov and Yang Jiechi said the six-nation grouping was in favour of intensive interaction of the SCO members with its observers and dialogue partners “for the benefit of strengthening security and stability in the region.”

Mr. Lavrov, while delivering a statement at a joint address by the three Foreign Ministers, explained why greater participation in the SCO would be beneficial to India. One of the primary focus of the SCO, he said, was to take interest in pooling of efforts and resources to restore social and economic structures, as well as peace and stability in Afghanistan to counter the spread of terrorism and narco-trafficking.

Summing up the ninth round of deliberation among the RIC Foreign Ministers, Mr. Krishna said they exchanged views on the regional and international situation, shared their assessment of various current developments and identified common approach on several issues. He described the discussions as “stimulating and rich.”

Mr. Yang warned that while the joint effort of the international community was helping overcome the global economic crises and there were signs of economic stability in some countries, the momentum was still “fragile.”

He felt the increased communication between the three countries was in keeping with the trend of the times. It was also conducive to increased democratisation of the international community and accommodation of diversity in models of economic development. “China always attaches great importance to active participation in RIC,” he said.

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