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Pakistan joins security bloc led by China, Russia

ASTANA: Pakistan formally became a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) during the 17th meeting of its Heads of the State Council here on Friday.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev made an announcement to this effect after signing of documents by the founding members at the conclusion of the summit.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with a delegation, including Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz, Commerce MinisterKhurram Dastagir and Minister of State for Petroleum Jam Kamal, attended the meeting.

India also joined the SCO on the occasion.

President of China Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, President of Belarus Alexandar Lukashenko and President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, in their speeches, extended felicitation to Prime Minister Sharif.

In his address at the summit, Mr Sharif said Pakistan, as a full member of the SCO, would strive further to achieve collective objectives of the organisation for regional cooperation, connectivity and economic prosperity.

He said Pakistan pursued a policy of peaceful neighbourhood and called for pro-motion of peace and harmony for future generations.

With its expansion, he said, the SCO had been transformed into a true transcontinental organisation. The SCO played the role of a sheet anchor for regional progress and prosperity in view of the global changes.

He said the SCO provided the member states a platform for shared prosperity and connectivity and to overcome terrorism and extremism, poverty and unemployment and tackle climate change and water security.

The premier said the objectives of the SCO resonated with Pakistan`s core values for shared prosperity.

Pakistan was diligently implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship of One Belt, One Road initiative, which would be beneficial for all SCO members, he said.

Congratulating India on attaining the full member status of the SCO along with Pakistan, the prime minister said it was a historic day for Pakistan and the SCO members and thanked the founding members, including China and Russia, for their staunch support to Pakistan to become its full-fle dge d member.

Earlier, a welcoming ceremony was held in which Prime Minister Sharif was warmly received by the Kazakh president in the powerful Eurasian body.

Pakistan has been an observer with the SCO since 2005 and applied for full membership of the organisation in 2010. The decision to give membership to Pakistan was taken, in principle, at a meeting of the SCO heads of states in Uf a, Russia, in 2015.

Handshake with Putin, Modi The leaders of Pakistan and India met for the first time in 17 months, at Astana, officials said, despite renewed tensions over Kashmir. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr Sharif shook hands and exchanged greetings at the opening of the meeting late on Thursday evening.

Russian President Putin, with whom Prime Minister Sharif had a handsake, congratulated Pakistan on becoming a full-fledged member of the SCO.

Mr Modi and Mr Sharif had last met on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit in December 2015 before Mr Modi surprised the world with an impromptu visit to Pakistan the same month.

An Indian foreign ministry of ficial said as it was the first contact between the two leaders since Mr Sharif underwent surgery, Mr Modi inquired about his health. He also inquired about Mr Sharif`s mother and his family, the of ficial said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif also met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the SCO summit.

Sartaj Aziz was also present during the meeting.