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Murli Deora to attend SCO summit

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Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Murli Deora
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Murli Deora

Amit Baruah

India has observer status in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

NEW DELHI: Petroleum Minister Murli Deora will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special envoy, in Shanghai on June 15, Government and diplomatic sources said on Saturday.

India, along with Pakistan, Mongolia and Iran, was accepted as an observer in SCO in 2004, following which the then External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, represented New Delhi at the fifth SCO summit in Astana, Kazakhastan, in July 2005.

The invitation to attend the June 15 summit was for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but the Government has chosen to send Mr. Deora.

A major effort has been made by both China and Russia to project the SCO as an organisation that promotes stability and cooperation in Asia.

The SCO has also been working on giving observers a greater role in the functioning of the organisation.

For some time now, New Delhi has been debating the pros and cons of who should represent India at the Shanghai summit a meeting that will be attended by Chinese and Russian Presidents Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin.

Given that India is not a full member and the SCO is still in the process of formalising the role of observers, New Delhi, perhaps, decided that it would not be proper for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend the summit.

Expansion

There has also been talk that the SCO itself may allow more members expanding the group beyond Russia, China, Kazakhastan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan that founded the grouping back in June 2001.

In an interview to ITAR-TASS news agency on May 23, SCO Secretary-General Zhang Deugang, when asked if the membership would be expanded, said: "We do not have ready answers to this question. We have yet to think over such kind of questions. We need a procedure on accepting new members, a legal base, clear and exact guidelines, according to which we can reach consensus on whom we can accept, who meets these guidelines and who does not."

He added: "We have yet to work out such guidelines. It requires some time considering that this process is quite complicated.

We have yet to begin to work specifically on developing these guidelines. The issue of how big the Organisation should be has not yet been raised."

On the role of observers, Mr. Zhang said that since the day of their admission the SCO had been thinking on how to cooperate with them.

"We do not want them just to observe our activity; it does not make any sense."

"In this regard, we started to develop a scheme for interaction between the SCO and its observers a long time ago. Currently, we have the observer regulations. However, we have yet to determine how to carry on these relations."


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