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Jiang pushes to boost 'Shanghai 6'

Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) pose for a group photo at the end of their meeting in Beijing in January this year
Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) pose for a group photo at the end of their meeting in Beijing in January this year  

Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

(CNN) -- Chinese President Jiang Zemin is hopeful that maintaining peace in South Asia and fighting terrorism will restore momentum to the lackluster Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Heads of state of the six SCO members -- China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan -- are meeting later this week in St Petersburg.

The viability of the SCO, often considered a Jiang diplomatic initiative, has been affected by the recent Russian-NATO rapprochement as well as new relationships between several Central Asian countries and the U.S.

However, the need to tackle the India-Pakistan crisis could give the body, originally conceived by Jiang as an anti-NATO bloc, new relevance.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing said Jiang hoped the summit would restore close Sino-Russian ties as well as inject new momentum to the SCO movement.

The sources said Beijing was working on joint efforts with Russia to help defuse the Indo-Pakistan crisis.

India-Pakistan standoff

Jiang and Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as their senior ministers are in Almaty, Kazakhstan to attend the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), whose focus is the India-Pakistani standoff.

State media on Wednesday quoted the foreign ministers of both countries as saying China and Russia "have agreed to continue efforts to ease tension in South Asia."

Given the role of terrorism in the Indo-Pakistani conflict, the South Asian crisis will also figure prominently on the SCO agenda.

In his speech to the CICA on Tuesday, Jiang played up the pioneering role of SCO in the war against terrorism.

"Even before the September 11 attacks, China and other members of the SCO had signed the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism and are now stepping up efforts to set up a regional anti-terrorism agency," Jiang said.

Chinese and Western diplomats say the summit will endorse a SCO charter, one of whose major thrusts is to fight terrorism, whether it is in South Asia, Central Asia, Russia or China.

Economic aid

Beijing is lobbying for a permanent SCO secretariat to be set up in the Chinese capital, and that it be headed by a vice-minister from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

"Beijing is confident it can breathe new life into the SCO," said an Asian diplomat.

"It is true that Russian, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan need American economic aid. Yet they are faced with internal terrorist, pro-independence movements and only the SCO can provide them with the framework and rationale for cracking down hard on terrorism."

Chinese officials have also indicated Beijing is willing to help the other five SCO countries speed up their application procedures to the World Trade Organization.




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