ISLAMABAD - Pakistan hopes to make big achievements from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization after gaining its full membership as the group makes efforts to bring all the members – especially Pakistan and India - closer.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan was optimistic to benefit from the SCO for regional peace.

One official said: “We obviously want peace and prefer talks. We are hopeful the SCO leaders will press India to resume the dialogue process.”

“The SCO members have been active to bring Pakistan and India closer. This is a positive step.”

Last year, Pakistan and India formally joined the SCO, spearheaded by China and Russia, despite bilateral tensions bubbling over Kashmir. Leaders of the largely symbolic body - including Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping – had formally signed off on the two countries’ accession at the annual SCO summit in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian premier Narendra Modi shook hands but did not hold a formal bilateral meeting.

Both Moscow and Beijing have expressed optimism that the two nuclear-armed neighbours’ entry into the SCO could strengthen prospects for peace across the region.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since gaining independence from the British in 1947.

Reports said Pakistan, India and other member states of the SCO will participate in the upcoming joint military drill dubbed “Peace Mission 2018” to promote mutual trust against terrorist threats and to maintain regional peace and stability.

The drill’s command post exercise will take place at the Chebarkulsky training ground in Russia’s Ural Mountains region in August. Chiefs of general staff of the SCO nations will also hold a meeting during the joint military drills, it said.

The exercise will follow the 18th SCO summit scheduled for June 9 and 10 in Qingdao in Shandong province. The exercises are biannual, multinational drills with the goal of enhancing counterterrorism coordination and cooperation among the eight member countries, which include China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The drill does not target any third party.

Another official at the foreign ministry said the SCO was a big forum for both Pakistan and India. “Since the SCO prohibits its members from confrontation with each other, it will be beneficial for peace in the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Mamnoon Hussain will attend the 18th meeting of the SCO’s Council of the Heads of State at Qingdao in China today (June 9).

The Qingdao summit will mark a year since Pakistan joined the prestigious organization as a full member. The Council of Heads of State is the highest decision-making forum of the SCO which meets annually and considers and defines strategy, prospects and priorities of the organization, said a foreign ministry statement.

The invitation to the president to attend the 18th meeting of CHS has been extended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who would chair the meeting. The meeting will be attended by the Heads of States of SCO Member States, representatives of SCO observer states as well as representatives of international organizations including the UN, the CIS, the ASEAN, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

“The SCO is an established intergovernmental organization that aims to strengthen mutual confidence and good-neighborly relations, while promoting effective cooperation in the fields of politics, trade and economy, science and technology, culture, education, energy, transportation, tourism and environmental protection, among others. Besides Pakistan, its current membership comprises of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and India,” the statement said. 

Pakistan shares deep-rooted historical and cultural affinities with member states of SCO. Pakistan affords critical overland connectivity for trade and energy and supports SCO’s efforts for regional integration through linking its flagship program of CPEC with the six land routes of SCO. Pakistan’s membership has been facilitating further deepening and broadening of our multifaceted relations with the individual member states, and SCO region at large, it said.

Since accession as a member, Pakistan has been participating regularly in all SCO meetings and events. It took part in negotiations and finalization of more than twenty documents including the Qingdao declaration, important decisions at the level of the heads of state and agreements under various cooperation mechanisms of SCO. These documents are expected to be signed during the summit.

Pakistan also participated in a number of ministerial-level meetings of SCO member states including those of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Law and Justice, Commerce, National Security, Culture, Tourism and Media besides numerous senior officials’ meetings.

It has twice participated in the meeting of the Chief Justices/Presidents of the Supreme Courts from 23 – 25 May. Pakistan hosted the Legal Experts Group Meeting of the SCO’s Regional Anti Terrorism Structure, marking the first occasion an SCO event has been held in Pakistan.

Pakistan has also been actively participating in various cultural and sports events such as musical performances, film festivals, art exhibitions, youth exchanges and a marathon under the SCO auspices. These multifaceted activities reflect the truly integrated and dynamic nature of the grouping.

While SCO has achieved significant progress in promoting economic, cultural and social wellbeing in member states, its contributions for peace and security in the region are also noteworthy. SCO through its Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) has played a significant role in promoting peace, security and stability in the region.

On the sidelines of the summit, the president will hold important bilateral meetings with his counterparts from the region.