India, Pakistan begin membership process
The two-day annual Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit taking place in Uzbekistan will strengthen security and trade cooperation among the member countries, as India and Pakistan are expected to become full members of the group. [Special coverage]
Experts said cooperation in industrial capacity, trade, infrastructure and investment are expected to be further boosted during the summit, and China and other SCO member countries will achieve mutual benefits under China's new Silk Road initiative.
The heads of state of SCO member countries China, Russia and four Central Asia countries, along with observer countries, met in Tashkent, Uzbekistan's capital on Thursday, and were expected to sign the Tashkent Declaration, which will reaffirm that the organization is not directed against any other state or international organization, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
They will also approve the Action Plan for 2016-2020 to implement the SCO's Development Strategy, which includes specific actions in the main cooperative areas such as politics, security, economy, culture, and humanitarian work, and the information and international spheres.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the summit as the last stage of his Eurasian tour that had brought him to Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan.
"The Tashkent summit will focus on economic cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, political cooperation in the changing world situation, culture and people-to-people communication, and coordinating a new global form," Gao Fei, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.
"It is a key time for the SCO, as its focus has been to transform from mechanism construction to practical cooperation, when more specific areas of cooperation would surface," said Zhao Huirong, a research fellow of Central Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Zhao added SCO members have now cooperated in far more areas than economic and secure issues, and the geographic area has enlarged.
SCO members are facing some challenges, such as economic stagnation, terrorism and pressure from the outside world. To overcome the difficulties, connection and cooperation is the way to go, Gao said.
Xi on Thursday also hosted a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj to discuss a trilateral cooperation scheme that will cover trade, cross-border transport, tourism and environmental protection.
India and Pakistan, two former SCO observers, are expected to sign a document at the summit that would begin the process of their full SCO membership.
India's full SCO membership will provide it an opportunity to have extended cooperation with member countries in areas of defense, security and counter-terrorism, NDTV reported.
"Under the SCO framework, China and other member countries may help India and Pakistan enhance their mutual understanding and resolve their concerns, and eventually seek peace with each other," said Wang Haiyun, former military attaché at the Chinese embassy.