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After SAARC Lesson, SCO Countries Use Shanghai Platform to 'Defrost' India-Pak Ties

Sources working closely with the Chinese government had indicated that Xi, in fact, was keen on using the SCO platform to foster better ties between the neighbours.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:June 11, 2018, 7:57 AM IST
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After SAARC Lesson, SCO Countries Use Shanghai Platform to 'Defrost' India-Pak Ties
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao, China on June 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
New Delhi: As both India and Pakistan took their first step into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as full members, they were cautious of one aspect - to keep their bilateral frosty relations out of focus in Qingdao. The SCO grouping has been wary of issues between two nations hijacking its agenda. It appears that this was one of the hurdles both India and Pakistan had to overcome to become SCO members.

So as PM Modi and Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain shook hands and politely exchanged greetings at Qingdao after the signing of agreements, it was instantly picked up by the media. Interestingly, this happened with Chinese President Xi Jinping standing right behind them.

Sources working closely with the Chinese government had indicated that Xi, in fact, was keen on using the SCO platform to foster better ties between the neighbours. This of course, with the hope that improved relations between India and Pakistan could help temper down New Delhi's stand on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), that has resulted in India staying out of Xi's pet project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

But India's stand on BRI has been categorical to the extent that it refused to endorse BRI in the Qingdao agreement. India had boycotted the BRI summit in Beijing last year stating that it ignored India's "core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity." In fact, the Ministry of External Affairs reiterated this point in April this year when some media reports suggested India could change its stand. It said, "our position on OBOR/BRI is clear and there is no change."

SAARC has fallen prey already to the hostility between India and Pakistan. Some SAARC countries like Sri Lanka have expressed unhappiness over the entire grouping getting derailed due to the fragile relationship between India and Pakistan. India had boycotted the 19th SAARC summit in Islamabad after the Pathankot and then Uri terror attack in 2016. This was followed by other SAARC countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan standing behind and endorsing India's stand.

The SCO was well aware of this background as the two countries were inducted into the grouping only last year. One of SCO's main goals is to strengthen "mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy." It also says the SCO members will make joint "efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region."

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