Interview: India-Pakistan ties could improve as new SCO members, says expert

MUMBAI- India and Pakistan's expected cooperation through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a very positive sign for the two countries and all of Asia, according to one expert.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, former chairman of Mumbai-based think-tank Observer Research Foundation, made the remarks in an interview with Xinhua ahead of the 18th SCO summit in east China's Qingdao city scheduled for June 9 to 10.

The upcoming Qingdao summit is the first for the SCO since its expansion in June 2017, when India and Pakistan were accepted as full members.

The inclusion of India and Pakistan as full members of the SCO in the last summit is a "major development" for the realization of the mandate of SCO and also for the realization of the dream of Asia as a continent of cooperation, development and peace, said Kulkarni, who is also a politician and a columnist.

"India and Pakistan are close neighbors. Unfortunately for the last 70 years, there has been a lot of hostility between our two countries," said Kulkarni. "Now when both become members of the SCO, which is a cooperation platform, it means that they will have to start cooperating, they will have to start talking, and resolving their differences through dialogue, and not militarily."

"I believe that China, which is the initiator of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, has played a very positive role," he said.

The SCO's founding members are China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Created in 2001, the SCO accounts for over 60 percent of the Eurasian landmass, nearly half of the world's population and over 20 percent of global GDP.

Kulkarni also spoke highly of the informal meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan, China late April, calling it a "turning point."

The Indian expert lauded Xi's leadership, saying China is taking a "very proactive and a very positive initiative" in the past few years.

"Xi is providing a visionary and inspiring leadership not just to China but to Asia and the world as a whole," he said, adding that China has become a major factor of stability.

When asked about his expectation of the upcoming Qingdao summit, Kulkarni said he expects it to yield "positive concrete action points," highlighting Xi's proposal of a five-year implementation plan for long-term cooperation at Astana summit last year. Xinhua