How things change!
As I write this, India is facing the prospect of being a fully-fledged member, where Iran has been royally snubbed!:
In previous summits, the Iranian leader had been warmly welcomed. Last year, SCO leaders congratulated him on a disputed election victory.
In any event, the ban is formal and no country has yet to be admitted. For years experts noted, the admission of new members has been part of SCO discussions and expectations were high.
Media in India and Pakistan welcomed the new membership rules as a success for their countries.
Now the issue will be turned over to diplomatic experts from the various countries, but in some member states, doubts are being raised over the danger of bringing the Indo-Pakistani dispute into the organisation.
Even if India does not say it, I can understand why India, in so many ways, would feel uneasy having Pakistan so closely allied to it in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation--and it's all about Kashmir.
All that said, I believe it would be premature for Russia, China, and some of the other -"stans" (Kazakhstan; Tajikistan; Krygyzstan) to think that having those two countries could destabilise the almost-decade-old regional grouping. This is because the issue of international terrorism predicated on Al-Queda (and less on Kashmir-terrorism) seems to be the more relevant off-late.
Truth be told, I have a serious problem with India and Pakistan joining SCO as members, especially when they seem to be putting little effort into the establishment and development of SAARC. I have less a problem with Pakistan which clout I think would NOT be as great as that of the emerging hegemon-India.
Anyone who has forgotten the "BRIC" alliance of Brazil-Russia-India-China will notice that Pakistan will not feature there anytime soon!
But to be more specific about why the SCO is featured here in this post, let me just say that when I heard of the outbreak of ethnic violence in Uzbekistan, it did not even strike me at all that the country had played host to a summit (as I didn't know!), but the country did ring a bell with me over the SCO.
I re-call that the SCO has been instrumental in formulating a so-called "Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure"--something that made me giddy with excitement a while back. In so many ways, this has resonance with why Pakistan might want to be allied to it.
The Uzbekistan/Kyrgyzstan is not being portrayed as a terrorist problem--more of an unfortunate ethnic one. I find it regrettable given these two countries belong to the increasingly-powerful SCO. I had hoped to read more substantive things coming therefore from the SCO. All I have read so far is this from Pakistan's Daily Times when it writes:
The SCO [has] called for restoring stability in restive Kyrgyzstan through dialogue. Nearly 100 people have died after ethnic riots erupted in southern Kyrgyzstan. SCO’s member states pledged that they are willing to provide necessary support and assistance. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said, “We have a sincere interest in overcoming as quickly as possible this stage of interior disturbances in Kyrgyzstan. We also support the establishment of a modern government that is able to solve the country’s pressing social and economic problems.”
Watch this space as I follow the travails of the SCO in the restoration of peace in this region.
This might well prove to be a test-case for the SCO!