China welcomes proposed accession of India in SCO

Beijing: China, the host of the next Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, today welcomed the proposed accession of India and Pakistan to the security grouping, but said no timetable should be set to grant them full membership.

"We welcome relevant countries to become members of the SCO," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Cheng Guoping told a media briefing on the summit scheduled to be held here on June 6-7. "The relevant countries should work hard towards political, legal and technical preparations for [the membership]," he said answering a question about elevating India and Pakistan as members as proposed by Russia which is the biggest country in the forum along with China.

He said work about expanding the membership is going on. "The decision should be made through consensus and consultation and no timetable should be set. That is to say, when the conditions are ripe, the decision should be made through consensus," he said.

SCO, a China backed security forum was set up in Shanghai in 2001. Its members included Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Pakistan, India, Iran and Mongolia have been given observer status while Turkmenistan and Afghanistan attend SCO gatherings as guest nations. Belarus and Sri Lanka have the status as dialogue partners.

The issue of admitting new members came up during the SCO`s Foreign Ministers meeting held here on May 12. A joint statement issued at the end of it called for giving "much bigger role" observers states in the organisation. India is expected to be represented at the summit by External Affairs Minister, S M Krishna while Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is also slated to attend it.

Cheng said the situation in Afghanistan was expected to come up during the summit. The summit would also adopt a will adopt a new programme to combat terrorism and extremism. He, however SCO cannot be compared to NATO.