ALMATY, MARCH 10 2017 (The Conway Bulletin) — India and Pakistan could become members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) by June, its Secretary-General Rashid Alimov said in a message that will raise concern in the West about the growing influence of the Russia and China-led security and economic alliance.
If, or perhaps when, India and Pakistan, join the SCO it will give the organisation leverage over roughly 40% of the world’s population and extend its geographical focus away from Central Asia towards South Asia.
Mr Alimov, Tajikistan’s former ambassador to Beijing who has been heading the SCO’s secretariat since 2016, put out the statement on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
There has been no official confirmation of Mr Alimov’s message but last year both Pakistan and India did sign an agreement pledging to join the six member group by the end of 2017. On June 8/9, the SCO plans to hold its annual summit in Astana.
Some analysts in the West have previously likened the SCO to an Asian version of NATO, set up to act as an alternative global rallying point to the West. Other observers have said that the comparison is off the mark and that the SCO is a long way off being as developed a military alliance as NATO.
Alongside Russia and China, the SCO members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia also have ‘observer’ status in the SCO, which is headquartered in Beijing and was set up in 2001.
The SCO holds war exercises, hosts diplomatic and governmental get-togethers and shares intelligence between members. It also promotes economic cooperation, allowing China to invest in Central Asia.
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(News report from Issue No. 320, published on March 13 2017)