India ups SCO sales pitch
Beijing: India Thursday pitched for a "larger and more constructive role" in the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a full member and underlined that the grouping is "a promising alternative regional platform" to help stabilise Afghanistan.
"As we have emphasised at various SCO fora, India would be happy to play a larger, wider and more constructive role in the SCO as a full member, as and when the organisation finalises the expansion modalities," External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said at the 12th SCO summit at the Great Hall of People here.
India, along with Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia, currently enjoy the status of observer at the SCO.
The SCO comprises Russia and China, the two regional giants and permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the energy-rich Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
"We welcome the general trajectory of the SCO towards expansion and redefinition of its role. We feel a wider and more representative SCO will be able to deal more effectively with the common challenges of security and development in our region," he said.
Underlining India's proactive participation in multifarious SCO activities as an observer, Krishna said: "India, on its part, has been participating constructively at all SCO meetings open to the Observers."
"By doing so, we have shown our strong willingness to be meaningfully associated with this grouping."
Krishna stressed that India is already engaged with the SCO member states in areas such as information technology, management and entrepreneurship development.
"We will be happy to share with SCO countries our unique experience in specific areas of economic endeavour, such as banking,capital markets, micro-finance, small and medium enterprises."
Given elaborate procedures and rigorous criteria, India's admission into the SCO could take up to two years after the SCO members unanimously decide to open the doors for new members. India is now eyeing 2014 as the target for getting inside the SCO tent.
Alluding to India's cooperation with Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), the SCO's premier counter-terror body, Krishna also called for greater regional cooperation in combating terrorism, a core focus of the SCO.
"India is a long-standing victim of terrorism emanating from our region and believes that there is need for stronger resolve and firmer efforts in tackling this scourge," he said.
Describing Afghanistan as the "most important security challenge" Krishna underscored that the SCO "provides a promising alternative regional platform to discuss the rapidly changing Afghan situation".
"The economic development projects of the SCO can be a meaningful additional effort for Afghanistan's reconstruction."
The SCO's future role in Afghanistan got an added boost with Afghanistan upgraded as an observer at the SCO summit.
India has pledged over $2 billion for reconstruction and developmental activities in Afghanistan.
"This is a reflection of our commitment to the prosperity of the Afghan people. We will be unwavering in our support to this cause," he said.
The explosive mix of Islamist militant networks and narcotics trade in the region that directly impinges on the stability of Afghanistan is a major factor driving India's desire to seek an upgrade in the SCO.
Given the geographical contiguity of all SCO states with Afghanistan and their collective efforts to counter terrorism, the SCO could be an effective regional platform to stabilise Afghanistan in the run-up to the withdrawal of the US-led international coalition troops from that country.