As he hailed the entry of Pakistan and India into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on Friday, China’s President Xi Jinping made a special effort to reassure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of his country’s support for Islamabad.
"China firmly supports Pakistan's efforts in safeguarding national security and will continue to provide support and help for Pakistan to improve relevant capabilities," he was quoted as saying by China’s official Xinhua news agency.
"We will make joint efforts to enrich the connotation of the China-Pakistan community of common destiny, so as to play an exemplary role for building the community of common destiny between China and other neighboring countries," the Chinese president added.
At the same time, Xi said Pakistan and India’s entry into the SCO “will inject new impetus into organisation's all-ranging cooperation."
Chinese experts said sharing the common platform at the SCO could enable India and Pakistan to understand each other better, and resolve their differences. However, China is worried that the differences between India and Pakistan can cloud the agenda of SCO.
"If a dramatic confrontation breaks out between India and Pakistan at some point, it will definitely pose a stumbling block for the group to reach any agreement over major issues in the future,” Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told Global Times newspaper.
Liu Huaqin, researcher of Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said, "Regional economic cooperation is a main support of the development of SCO and is always a key topic of the SCO Summit. Under the background of a sluggish global economy, strengthening economic cooperation within the SCO framework has become a common expectation."
Independent observers see the enlarged SCO as a possible challenge to NATO. SCO now has four nuclear powered nations with India and Pakistan joining its benches along with China and Russia. SCO has issued a 10-year development plan for more intense cooperation on security and foreign relations issues.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2015.