NATIONAL

India to join Shanghai group as observer

Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW: India will join the Shanghai regional security group together with Pakistan and Iran next month, as the group seeks to enhance its security role in Central Asia.

The three countries will be granted observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation at its summit in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, on July 5-6.

"Reaffirming the open nature of the organisation the ministers welcomed the intention of Pakistan, Iran and India to get an observer status in the SCO," said a Joint Statement issued after a meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers in Astana on Saturday. SCO currently incorporates Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as full members and Mongolia as observer.

Informed sources said the decision to co-opt the three countries was a compromise between different interests within and outside the group.

China insisted on simultaneous admission of India and Pakistan, even though Delhi and Moscow were unhappy with this linkage. One Central Asian member of the Shanghai Group was opposed to Iran's membership. However, Russia said it would block any expansion unless Iran was included.

Misgivings cleared

Misgivings about Pakistan were cleared after it became obvious that Pakistan's involvement in SCO could help reduce the leverage the United States has on Islamabad.

Also, Pakistan's entry into SCO would hamper Washington's plan to set up a rival security organisation for Central Asia and the Caspian that would lock out Russia and China.

In the light of a recent "tulip revolution" in Kyrgyzstan and an aborted revolt in Uzbekistan, the SCO members decided to step up joint efforts to safeguard security and stability in Central Asia.

"The member-states of SCO reaffirm their readiness to enhance cooperation to jointly oppose the activities of terrorist, separatist and extremist forces seeking to destabilise the situation in the region of Central Asia," the joint statement said.

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