The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, or SCO, wants to play a bigger role in troubled Afghanistan, Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, has said on the first day of a two-day summit of the regional grouping in Beijing.

The bloc, consisting of China, Russia and Central Asian states - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan - is set to discuss the future of neighbour Afghanistan after NATO-led forces pull out in 2014.

"We will continue to manage regional affairs by ourselves, guarding against shocks from turbulence outside the region," Hu was quoted as saying in an interview with China's official People's Daily newspaper on Wednesday.

"We will play a bigger role in Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction.

"We'll strengthen communication, co-ordination and co-operation in dealing with major international and regional issues."

However, Hu did not give details of how the SCO security grouping could play a bigger role in Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has been invited to attend the summit as a guest, and his country is due to be granted "observer" status, meaning it can attend meetings but not vote.

Karzai said in Beijing on Wednesday the two governments are preparing to sign a preliminary agreement about the "creation of a strategic partnership" between them.

Afghan officials earlier told Reuters news agency that China and Afghanistan will soon announce a plan to deepen ties, indicating China's desire to play a role beyond their economic partnership.

US officials have indicated China could play a bigger reconstruction role through aid and investment, but Beijing's trade with Afghanistan has remained scant.

In 2011, two-way trade was worth $234m, while Chinese imports from Afghanistan were worth just $4.4m, according to Chinese customs data.

Afghanistan's neighbours - Iran, Pakistan and India, who are also attending the summit as observers, have jostled for influence in the country.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies