The summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), scheduled to be held from 30 November to 1 December in Sochi, Russia will be the first to have India and Pakistan as full members since their inclusion in June.
It is no secret that India and Pakistan have longstanding differences over many issues, which is why the upcoming summit has drawn wide global attention. It will be especially closely watched as to what changes these countries will bring to the SCO and how they will interact under the SCO mechanism.
What’s important is that the common need for regional security as well as economic development prompted the two to join the SCO. Such common needs are in line with the SCO’s goal of promoting economic and trade cooperation, which in turn is expected to help ease their tensions.
Given the incessant tension over counter-terrorism situation in South Asia, it’s increasingly essential for India and Pakistan to seek outside help since it’s hard for any country to fight terrorism alone. Established as a security organization, the SCO used to be an important platform for facilitating counter-terrorism cooperation in Central Asia.
With the membership of India and Pakistan, it is now expected to enhance security cooperation in South Asia as well, which will help maintain a peaceful environment for regional development.
The need to further strengthen regional economic cooperation was also a major consideration behind the inclusion of India and Pakistan in the SCO. Economic cooperation has been an important focus of the SCO since its foundation in 2001.
The SCO has been committed to promoting common development by seeking economic complementarities among its members, and it is now involved in the construction of connectivity infrastructure. That’s exactly what India and Pakistan are looking for from the organization in light of their domestic economic development situations.
Many observers are also watching to see whether the SCO will mediate disputes between India and Pakistan. But although the SCO has a form of dialogue mechanism, solving divergences between these two won’t be an easy job given their long history of conflicts.
For now, the more realistic expectation may be that with increased bilateral economic cooperation under the umbrella of the SCO, bilateral tensions will ease.