Shanghai Cooperation Organization Meets in Beijing

The 12th annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is currently underway in Beijing, and will conclude on June 7 2012. Founded in 2001 in the Chinese city of Shanghai, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental organization with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its members. The organization had been in operation under the name of Shanghai Five since 1996, but upon the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the name was changed. It a recent statement regarding the SCO, China’s President Hu Jintao noted that the SCO follows the trends of peace and development with the goal of meeting common aspirations of the people living in the organization’s member regions. He also emphasized the point that SCO members consult and communicate on issues related to the core interests of its member states, while at the same time resisting interventionism.

While not being full members, several countries participate as observers, with some having the aim of becoming full members in the future. Current observers are India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan. Although Iran reportedly applied for full membership in March 2008, sanctions levied by the United Nations have blocked the country from admission. Pakistan has made a bid to gain full membership, which has been endorsed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and will no doubt be a topic for discussion on the SCO summit agenda.

India’s External Affairs Minister SM Krishna will be participating in the 12th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, where he is expected to promote his country for full SCO membership. While in Beijing, Krishna will meet with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang for a thorough review of bilateral ties between India and China. With Li being tipped to take over from current Premier Wen Jiabao, the meeting is considered to be significant. Later this year, Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao will retire after a ten year term in power. Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to take over as China’s President.

In an interview ahead of the summit, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping was reported as saying that countries seeking SCO membership should work towards legal, political and technical requirements for membership. In addition to observer nations, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meetings as guest nations, with Belarus and Sri Lanka having dialogue partner status.