India, Pak join SCO

NOTWITHSTANDING our media’s predictable preoccupation with levels of PM Modi’s diplomatic civility with Nawaz Sharif and Xi Jinping, what took place on Friday in Astana was seminal.

India, Pak join SCO

AFP file photo

NOTWITHSTANDING our media’s predictable preoccupation with levels of PM Modi’s diplomatic civility with Nawaz Sharif and Xi Jinping, what took place on Friday in Astana was seminal. After a five-year wait, India and Pakistan were admitted to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), till then a six-member club of Russia, China and four Central Asian nations. Cast a look at any world map and this grouping’s geo-political footprint becomes obvious. All the countries straddle an arc of instability that has brought violent extremism in its wake for the past three decades. It is these countries rather than the extra-regional actors who know where the shoe pinches. They have been at the receiving end of radicalised, gun-toting militants and are now facing the spectre of the ISIS.

India and Pakistan complete the lineup to fight ISIS-inspired militancy that seeks the destruction of all states not measuring up to its standards of piety and fervour. None of the SCO states make the grade. On the commerce side, Central and South Asia remains the least interconnected region. The various sinews of the famed Silk Road are now just memories. Even if India ignores the Pakistan portion of the OBOR, there are endless possibilities for connecting with these areas, especially North India that has endured the inconvenience of post-Independence borders sealing off millennia-old trading routes. Once the routes open up, oil and gas pipelines would follow.

Sceptics claim India and Pakistan will bring their disputes to the SCO table and render it as dysfunctional as SAARC. The assumption is predicated on the belief that members do not launder their bilateral disputes at the SCO. In fact, the SCO’s founding purpose was to sort out disputes among its members. With a considerate Russia and sympathetic Central Asian states, India will get ample hearing at the SCO which could help sort out some of the crinkles in its relations with China and Pakistan. As Turkey and Iran wait on the sidelines for admission, the SCO is a work in progress. But it would not be without its uses for India even in the current format.

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