Russia has invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend the forthcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) against the backdrop of rapidly changing developments in the Middle East and Afghanistan, according to diplomatic officials.
Pakistan, which has an observer status at the SCO, a key regional security organisation, is sending the Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, to take part in the summit.
However, in view of the likely military strike against Syria as well as the US drawdown in Afghanistan next year, Moscow is pushing Islamabad to send Prime Minister Nawaz, officials told The Express Tribune.
On Friday, Pakistan and Russia wrapped up their first strategic dialogue with a commitment to remaining engaged and maintaining the momentum in the relationship.
“Both sides noted with satisfaction the growing understanding between the two countries and discussed in detail the state of bilateral relations,” concluded a statement by the Foreign Office.
On the September 13 SCO summit in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the new Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will take part.
They are expected to discuss the recent Syrian crisis and the Afghanistan endgame. Both Russia, China – permanent members with veto powers at the UN Security Council – are opposing military action against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons against the rebel strongholds.
Officials said the SCO summit could provide an opportunity for the new Pakistani prime minister to interact with heads of states present on key regional and international issues.
“Russia is quite keen to understand the new Pakistani government’s perspective on important issues,” said a Russian diplomat, on the condition of anonymity.
The diplomat said it is important that Prime Minister Sharif attends the SCO since his government was seeking to reach out to regional countries for cooperation.
However, it is not clear whether the premier will travel to Bishkek.
Foreign office officials said the prime minister had no such plans yet, although he could go to SCO summit before travelling to Turkey on September 16. After his Turkey visit, he will go to New York for the UN General Assembly session.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian security organisation established in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Currently, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have been given observer status, while Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey have been made dialogue partners.
Both China and Russia have endorsed the full membership of India and Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2013.