SCO starts new era with addition of India, Pakistan
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Friday entered a new phase in its history with the incorporation of India and Pakistan as new full members during its annual summit in this Kazakhstan capital.
The two South Asian countries are the first to join the organization since it was founded in 2001 by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to foster multilateral cooperation on security issues, reports Efe.
India and Pakistan now have a new space to work out their differences, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the historic gathering inaugurated on Friday.
He said the SCO was becoming one of the world's gravitational centers and one of the foundations of the current global order.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said at the inauguration ceremony that the entry of the new members would give fresh impetus to the organization's development and further boost its relevance internationally.
The SCO remains open to new applications and will next consider the candidacy of Iran, which is backed by Russia but opposed by some members of the organization.
Nazarbayev, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said it was important for the organization to bring on board new members but he did not mention any country in particular, reports Efe news.
The fundamental interests of the SCO members point to the need to deepen their cooperation in a format larger than eight countries, Nazarbayev said, adding that it was only through joint efforts that significant strides can be made in achieving the grouping's objectives.
Afghanistan, which like Iran now has the status of SCO observer country, could join the organization once it has resolved its internal conflict.
Putin said it was obvious that a military solution to the Afghan conflict was not feasible, adding that Russia and the other SCO members back a political solution based on agreements between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency.
The SCO, he said, also must cooperate with the UN and other international organisations to halt the trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, for his part, expressed support for the SCO's strategies in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking and said it was possible to radically reduce the presence of terrorist groups in his country.
In addition to the final Astana Declaration, the SCO leaders have signed 10 other documents, including a convention on combating extremism and a declaration on the joint fight against international terrorism.
Referring to the terrorist threat, Putin told his colleagues that the Islamic State terror organization had set its sights on Central Asian countries and areas of southern Russia.
Clandestine cells of IS combatants have been created and were operating in the SCO countries, according to Putin, who called for stronger cooperation among member countries' secret services.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the inclusion of his country in the SCO would give fresh impetus to the fight against terrorism in the region.
His Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif said the organization's anti-terrorist initiatives would help improve security in Pakistan.
China will assume the rotating presidency of the SCO after the Astana summit and will host the organization's next annual gathering in 2018.