What forces Pakistan to join Shanghai-5?
ISLAMABAD (NNI): Pakistan has reportedly applied for Shanghai-5 membership, reports BBC.
China, Russia and Central Asian States have formed Shanghai5 to tackle border issues. Pakistan has also keen interest in joining this group.
Why Pakistan is interested in joining this group and what would be the reaction of the member countries against this demand?
The Pakistanís request for joining Shanghai-5 has not yet officially been announced by Tajikistan. At present, Tajikistan heads the group. The Shanghai-5 group was formed in Shanghai in 1996 and its members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The formation of the group was aimed at tackling Chinaís border issues with some Central Asian countries because China has special concerns about the provision of financial and material support to the Ughor separatists in the Chinese province of Xiankiang by Turkish origin people of Central Asia.
The people of Ughor have close relations with Turkish origin people of Central Asia from cultural and linguistic point of view. The Shanghai-5 later expanded its agenda and other general, economic and security issues were also included in it. One of the issues which is a matter of concern for the group in Afghan situation and the hard-line Taliban movement controls nearly 90% Afghan territory.
The secular Central Asian regimes are eyeing on Afghanistan with concern. Similarly, Russia is locked in a bitter battle with separatists in Chechnya and China also has some evidence that Ughorians are also receiving training in the Taliban controlled areas to take part in the armed rebellion in Xiankiang province.
A question arises that why Pakistan wants to join a group which is very critical of the Taliban? Islamabad has in fact already taken some steps to hold talks with these critics of the Taliban and made some achievements as well this year. Turkmenistan particularly wants to establish relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan because they all want the Turkmen oil and gas shipment to the Indian Ocean via these countries.
Although, Uzbekistan is still making strong criticism on the Taliban yet it has recently decided to have somewhat relations with them. After the recent visit of Pakistan Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf to Kazakhstan, that country announced that it believed that Taliban were the natural leaders of future coalition government in Afghanistan. Pakistan would be able to promote dialogue with the enemies of Taliban by joining Shanghai-5 and in this regard, there have recently been encouraging talks and negotiations.
For example, the spokesman of Kyrgyz President has said that his country would welcome Pakistan joining of Shanghai-5. China is also likely to welcome Pakistan entry into Shanghai-5 because the two countries have been maintaining friendly relations since long.
But the question is that what would be the stance of Russia in this regard? The nation that Shanghai-5 would turn into a negotiating group on Afghanistan is likely to benefit Russia on the one hand because one of its impacts would be that it would reduce the influence of US which at present is member of Six Plus Two group on Afghanistan. But Russia would strongly oppose giving great incentives and facilities to the Taliban.
However, it does not seem that Moscow would bring in a shift in its stand at this stage at a time when Russia along with the US has supported new sanctions on the Taliban. But Pakistan would try to give some special assurances about controlling the Taliban and checking their so-called international programmes. If it is so, these assurances would be very particular so that Russia can be convinced.
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