BEIJING: Security in Central Asia, including the situation in Afghanistan, is set to be the focus of talks at a meeting in Beijing on Wednesday of a regional group dominated by China and Russia.
Heads of member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have gathered in the Chinese capital, the birthplace of the group, for a two-day summit on security and economic relations across the region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited the stability of Afghanistan as an issue of "common concern" while on Tuesday China said it expected the meeting to approve a plan for cracking down on terrorism.
China has blamed the banned East Turkestan Islamic Movement for terrorist attacks in its western Xinjiang region and says the group also operates in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The six-member SCO was established in 2001 in what was widely viewed at the time as a counterweight to the Western military alliance NATO, though it has since added economic cooperation to its agenda.
The group includes the central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran, Mongolia and political rivals India and Pakistan are observer members while Afghanistan is attending as a guest.
Putin said the meeting would discuss upgrading Afghanistan to an observer member while China added that talks would also take place on infrastructure development and project financing across Central Asia.
"The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is building institutions to guarantee the stability and safety the length and breadth of Eurasia," Putin said. "Strengthening political cooperation within the framework of the SCO must also strengthen cooperation in the economic sphere," he wrote in China's flagship People's Daily newspaper on Tuesday.
Putin and Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines on Thursday, as Russia prepares to host talks aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme.
Separately, China and Afghanistan are expected to announce the elevation of their relationship "to a new strategic level", Kabul's foreign ministry said Monday, as NATO forces prepare to pull out of the country.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the meeting.
The two countries share a commitment to the stability of Afghanistan, which is fighting hardline Islamist Taliban insurgents, as well as the rest of the region, an Afghanistan foreign ministry spokesman said.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ
AFG-China security pack , AFG-US security pack , AFG-India security pack, so what type of succory pack PAK is signing with Karzai?
Russia, China, and other central Asian countries are concerned about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the associated terrorism and security nightmare. Unless PAK joins hands with the concerns of these countries, she will be having difficulty for years to come in international fronts.
Nato and its allies should breathe a sigh of relief that Afghanistan will be taken care of by its regional neighbours after 2014. They should trust that neither China nor Russia wants to have instability in its backyard. The Shanghai Group might be competing against the West for influence in this restive region, but it might emerge as a stabilising factor.