Pakistan is going to strive for the permanent membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which is likely to look into the issue of expansion of membership during the forthcoming 10-year anniversary summit in Kazakhstan.
President Asif Ali Zardari accompanied a high powered delegation of officials is going to visit Astana, on June 14 to attend the summit scheduled to be held on June 15.
Having the status of observer in the regional organisation Pakistan is in a strong position to apply for permanent SCO membership which is composed of six countries including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Earlier, foreign ministers of SCO member countries who had met in Almaty from May 13-14 had brought up key issues including reparations for the 10-year anniversary summit and discussed certain issues to be reviewed at that summit, expansion and the responsibilities of new members.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also asked the concerned authorities, ministries and Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry and other association to send their analysis of the trade relations with SCO countries and investment in various sectors. Though, Pakistan has almost $2 billion in trade with member countries of SCO, it was negligible compared to the potential and capacity of trade among the regional units, sources told Pakistan Today.
Though all members of the SCO except Russia to accede to the entry of Pakistan as a permanent member of the body, Moscow has evinced keen interest to introduce India in a similar capacity while Pakistan is apparently hindering Indian inclusion, sources said. However, currently the SCO was considering the membership applications of Iran and Pakistan.
However, experts believe that as the relations between India and the US have steadily grown stronger, the inclusion of Pakistan into the Shanghai block is unlikely to be opposed by Russia in the next sessions of SCO. Besides, Islamabad has also tried to convince Moscow to accept Pakistan’s role in geopolitical developments of the region.
According to them, while fighting the ongoing war against terrorism, Pakistan has become interested in pursuing strong relationships and cooperation through the SCO, an intergovernmental security organisation founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of six nations. A joint effort made by Pakistan and another two major players of the organization, China and Russia could bring back peace in the region especially in the war stricken Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning here that, beside the trade relations among the strategically located South and Central Asian region, the SCO, a security grouping dominated by Russia and China was initially established to primarily deal with concerns over terrorism, separatism and extremism.
But Pakistan is intent on pursuing trade relations with Central Asian states through exchange of visits of head of the states and trade delegations during the last couple of years, sources added.
It is worth mentioning here that beside the six member countries, Mongolia received observer status in 2001 while Pakistan, India and Iran became observers in 2002 while Belarus and Sri Lanka were granted dialogue partner status in 2009. The member states encompass an area of over 30 million square kilometers, with population of about 1.5 billion.