President Zardari to seek SCO membership for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari will arrive in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan on Tuesday to attend the 10th summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on June 15.President Zardari will address the summit as SCO leaders will take up issues related to regional and global peace and security and cooperation in economic development. The leaders will devise a joint strategy in tackling challenges of terrorism, extremism, organized crime and narcotics.Pakistan has status of an observer in SCO and President Zardari will be seeking his country’s full membership of the regional organization.  According to Foreign Office Spokesperson Tehmina Janjua, the SCO summit will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the organization.In a statement, the Foreign Office Spokesperson said, “President Asif Ali Zardari’s participation signals the importance Pakistan attaches to the SCO and our keen interest in working the regional development agenda which includes building commerce and trade facilities, banking cooperation, energy transaction and corporate sector interactions.”SCO founded in 2001 in Shanghai comprises member states of China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.  India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia have observer status, while Belarus and Sri lanka are ranked as dialogue partners. Mongolia received observer status in 2001 while Pakistan, India and Iran became observers in 2002 and Belarus and Sri Lanka were granted dialogue partner status in 2009.President Zardari is expected to hold bilateral meetings with leaders of the SCO on the sidelines of the summit.Pakistan, Iran and India have applied for the full membership of the regional grouping and that has been discussed within the organization.In a media interaction early this month, SCO Secretary-General Muratbek Sansyzbayevich Imanaliev said the SCO leadership will begin talks with Pakistan, India and Iran for their full membership after a memorandum is expected to be passed at the summit on June 15.He said, “the summit will pass a memorandum on the obligations of membership applicants, after which we can start negotiations with the nations applying to join the SCO.”

The SCO is an open organization as defined in its charter, he said, noting that it is willing to cooperate with “organizations and nations that hold the same opinions as us.”Afghanistan’s application for observer status is being studied and will also be discussed at the upcoming summit.The SCO has become an important factor in the region and is pursuing various institutional mechanisms to ensure regional security and stability.According to SCO Secretary General, the SCO summit will approve an anti-drugs strategy for 2011 to 2016 to tackle this major threat to peace and prosperity in the region.The SCO has been successful in its management of security issues especially in non-traditional areas, such as drug trafficking.The Astana summit will witness the signing of a cooperative agreement on healthcare and explore areas for increased economic cooperation.

The theme of this month’s summit in Astana is building consensus and consolidating solidarity, and the leaders of the SCO member states will map out a blueprint for the organization for the next decade.An expert on SCO affairs is of the view that keeping in mind the fast evolving international situation, the member states have realized that only by staying true to the “Shanghai Spirit” and promoting the development of the SCO can they cope with the new challenges and continue to increase shared prosperity.The “Shanghai Spirit” advocates mutual trust, mutual benefits, equality, respect for cultural diversity and common development.The SCO is an intergovernmental international organization and its member states cover an area of over 30 million square kilometres with population of about 1.5 billion. – APP