China's leadership role in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is important as China's gross domestic product surpasses the combined total of all the other members, offering immense opportunities for member states to benefit at bilateral and multilateral levels, an Indian expert has said.
"I believe the 'Chinese approach' could be instrumental in paving not only the way for mutual assurance, but also a more open Eurasian region," said B.R. Deepak, a sinologist and professor of Chinese Studies at the Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua.
Moreover, the "approach" has other components such as mutual respect, non-conflict, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, he said.
"The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is part of this approach, and I believe it remains one of the most attractive mechanisms for connectivity and economic cooperation, even though some have looked at it through the prism of geopolitics and security," he said.
Through advocating the BRI, China has already asserted its leadership role in Eurasia and most of the economic corridors of the BRI run through Eurasia, which will not only bring about physical integration, but more importantly economic integration as well, thus providing regional peace and stability, said Deepak.
With India and China, the two largest and fastest developing SCO members, the contributions they are making together with other members to the global economic growth and prosperity are quite significant, said the Indian scholar.
The SCO has become an important multilateral institution to promote regional security, yet it is not a military bloc or an alliance directed towards any specific country, he said.
In the 16 years of its evolution, the SCO has emerged as an excellent multilateral mechanism for regional security, economic cooperation and transnational connectivity, he said.
Through the "SCO spirit," the organization has emerged as one of the most successful multilateral institutions in the world, he said.
It has been instrumental in gradually realizing regional economic integration, and member states are gradually aligning their development strategies, he added.
The inclusion of India and Pakistan in the SCO has certainly extended the SCO's multilateralism to South Asia, thus expanding its diplomatic, economic, cultural and security boundaries, and making it perhaps the world's largest multilateral institution in terms of population and geographical area, he said.
India and Pakistan became formal SCO members during the SCO summit in June 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Deepak said that China has agreed with other members that the SCO is not a security or military bloc directed against any country, and that its priorities are peace, stability and prosperity in the region as well as the collective fight against traditional and non-traditional security challenges.
In his opinion, it would make sense if India's connectivity projects, especially the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC), and various other connectivity inside India and Southeast Asia could be combined with similar Chinese initiatives in Central Asian countries and Russian projects in the region.
He said that in the long run, the SCO may provide an opportunity to resolve outstanding issues between India and Pakistan on the one hand, and between India and China on the other.
"Fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism is another important goal of the SCO ever since its formation in 2001," he said. "I believe the expansion of the SCO would entail a more coordinated approach on terrorism."
"The sharing of intelligence, counter-terrorism operations and combat experience etc. of various countries will come in handy," the expert said.