Making a strong pitch for its full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, India on Thursday said it sees a larger role for the security grouping in Afghanistan and evinced keen interest in participating in its counter-terrorism structure to combat challenges of extremism.
Addressing the extended session of the 12th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which concluded in Beijing, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said India "admired" the grouping which comprised China, Russia and Central Asian sates of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
India, Pakistan, Mongolia and Iran have the status of observer states. Afghanistan has been admitted as new observer during this summit. Belarus and Sri Lanka are the dialogue partners.
"India, on its part, has been participating constructively in all SCO meetings open to the Observers. By doing so, we have shown our strong willingness to be meaningfully associated with this grouping," Krishna said.
"We believe the SCO can potentially play a much larger role in the future both for the security and prosperity of our region," he said.
Significantly, Krishna said India sees a greater role for SCO in Afghanistan in the backdrop of the withdrawal of US-led NATO troops from the war-torn country.
"The most important security challenge we face today relates to Afghanistan, which lies in the heart of Asia and is a bridge, connecting not just Central and South Asia but also Eurasia and the Middle East. The SCO provides a promising alternative regional platform to discuss the rapidly changing Afghan situation," he said.
The economic development projects of the SCO can be a meaningful additional effort for Afghanistan's reconstruction, Krishna said.
"India has already committed over US$ two billion towards reconstruction and developmental activities in Afghanistan," he said, adding that India has "unwavering" commitment for the prosperity of the people of Afghanistan.
On the anti-terrorism front, Krishna spoke about the need for greater cooperation between India and the Regional Anti Terrorist Structure which is currently confined to members of SCO.
RATS, which is based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, regularly conducts anti-terrorism military exercises.
"India is a long-standing victim of terrorism emanating from our region and believes that there is need for stronger resolve and firmer efforts in tackling this scourge," Krishna
"We appreciate greater cooperation within RATS as an important regional answer to this challenge. India looks forward to greater engagement with this structure. Illicit narco-trafficking and cyber security are other challenges in the region which deserve greater focus and stronger collective efforts," he said.
He also spoke about India's interest in connectivity between SCO countries.
"The SCO needs to address the problem of connectivity through regional solutions to encourage trade and investment flows between our countries. India is ready to cooperate with regional countries to find viable solutions to this problem and contribute to the endeavour to build bridges between Central and South Asia. The International North South Transport Corridor, which we are re-energising, is one such effort in this direction," Krishna said.
"Energy cooperation is another area of interest to us. The proposed TAPI Project within our region is an example of cooperation that can bind us in energy linkages," he said.
"India is already engaged with the SCO member states in areas such as information technology, management, and entrepreneurship development. We will be happy to share with SCO countries our unique experience in specific areas of economic endeavour, such as banking, capital markets, micro-finance, small and medium enterprises," he said.