The SCO’s Bishkek Summit
Pakistan’s Growing Prestige in International Arena
The 19th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was held in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, on 14 June. Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan; Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi; President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev; President of China, Xi Jinping; President of Kyrgyzstan, Sooronbay Jeenbekov; President of Russia, Vladimir Putin; President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon; and President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev attended the summit. President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga as well as UN Under-Secretary-General Rosemary A DiCarlo were also in attendance.
The summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in the capital of Kyrgyzstan – Bishkek opened a new page in the interaction of eight countries – Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan.
Following the meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, 22 joint documents were signed.
Today, the SCO member countries are faced with completely new challenges and threats of a global nature, and their elimination is possible only by joint efforts. It is not by chance that the Bishkek Declaration of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization states that the SCO members believe that the growing and acquiring cross-border nature of threats and security threats require special attention, close coordination and constructive interaction of the world community. It is emphasized that we are talking about terrorism, the spread of terrorist and extremist ideology, the returning foreign terrorists, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the risk of an arms race. In addition, SCO members call unresolved regional and local conflicts undermining the international security system, drug trafficking, organized crime, human trafficking, crime in the field of information and others.
But it seems to me that a great deal of work should first of all be carried out in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the arms race. Why? Because in recent years, some countries have been heavily embroiled in an arms race, mainly USA, Russia, India, China and Turkey. If not for the US sanctions, Iran would also be actively involved in this one. I believe that the fight against the arms race, the reduction of military spending should be one of the priorities of the SCO.
The second important point that the SCO member states should pay attention to is the creation of a single economic space, taking into account the interests of all countries involved in this one. The Chinese initiative “One Belt, One Road” can take on this role. Unfortunately, not everything is simple in this matter. India is against participation in this project. If the conflicting sides – India and China can be in a single integration association like the SCO, then why not settle the territorial dispute among themselves? Can the SCO bring economic or other benefits to the region if territorial disputes between China and India, Pakistan and India still remain unresolved? Therefore, it is very important to resolve territorial disputes, which will create the possibility of expanding economic ties at both bilateral and multilateral levels.
Regarding the participation of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the SCO summit in Bishkek, the Pakistani Prime Minister held fruitful meetings in both bilateral and multilateral formats. As Imran Khan noted, today Pakistan provides a vital link between the East, Central Asia, China and the rest of Asia. Firstly, Pakistan has a huge market and resources, and secondly, Pakistan has extensive experience in the fight against terrorism and can contribute to the fight against this evil in Eurasia. Thirdly, peace and respect for its neighbors and other countries also lies at the basis of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan does pursue a peace-loving policy in the region. Let us recall the crisis that occurred in relations between India and Pakistan in February of this year. Pakistani authorities released the captive Indian pilot as a peaceful gesture. Such a gesture by Imran Khan has improved the image of Pakistan in the eyes of the world community. In world politics, such cases are extremely rare.
The SCO summit showed that Pakistan pursues a successful foreign policy in Eurasia. First, Pakistan is friends with China, which are linked to each other by a very large project — the China-Pakistan economic corridor, which is part of the Chinese initiative “One Belt, One Road”. Imran Khan’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a warm and friendly atmosphere is a clear testimony to that.
Secondly, Pakistan has a trusting relationship with Russia. Imran Khan briefly spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders of the countries talked during the pre-session photographing ceremony. Putin and Khan exchanged a few phrases. Earlier, in an interview with RIA Novosti, Khan said that he intended to meet with Putin at the summit. He also said that he expects to visit Russia on an official visit. Khan noted that Pakistan is interested in arms purchases from Russia and the Pakistani military is already in contact with Russian colleagues on this issue.
Pakistan has a trusting relationship with Russia. Imran Khan briefly spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders of the countries talked during the pre-session photographing ceremony
In recent years, there have been positive trends in Russian-Pakistani relations. Bilateral intergovernmental relations were significantly intensified both in the context of Pakistan’s accession to the SCO, and in the context of resolving the situation in Afghanistan. Relations between Russia and Pakistan in various fields are on the rise, in particular, military-technical cooperation is developing. It is important to note that there is active cooperation between the ministries of defense. In the summer of 2018, bilateral military exercises “Friendship – 2018” took place in the mountains of Pakistan. In February 2019, Russia was represented at the Aman international naval exercises conducted by the Pakistan Navy.
At the SCO summit, Imran Khan held a meeting with Kyrgyz President Soronbai Zheenkov. This meeting will serve as an additional impetus for improving bilateral cooperation in various fields, including trade and the economy. Because this is the first visit of Imran Khan to Central Asia after taking office as a new prime minister in August 2018. A number of Central Asian countries, including Kyrgyzstan, are showing interest in the Sino-Pakistani corridor.
The port of Gwadar is strategically located because it connects South and Central Asia, and the Middle East, as well as being the most important part of the ancient Silk Road linking China with three old continents (Asia, Europe and Africa). Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan is only $ 5 billion, but Pakistan intends to increase it to $ 20 billion over the next several years. Kyrgyzstan is interested in expanding trade and economic cooperation with Pakistan and in the supply of textiles and pharmaceutical products from this country. For example, Pakistan may establish pharmaceutical plants in Kyrgyzstan. Although the market of Kyrgyzstan is small, but this country is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Armenia. Pakistan should also develop and strengthen trade and economic relations with the rest of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. They could join the project – the Sino-Pakistani corridor, which would bring big dividends to these countries. China and Pakistan should work together to find new Central Asian investors for the Sino-Pakistani corridor.
Another area of cooperation with the countries of Central Asia is tourism. Tourism in Pakistan is one of the important components of the country’s budget. The tourism industry serves both Pakistanis and foreign visitors. Historical relics, beautiful beaches of the Arabian Sea, medical resorts, ancient monuments of architecture, Islamic shrines and much more make tourism in Pakistan attractive to many tourists. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world visit Pakistan every year. Wazir Khan Mosque, Badshahi Mosque, Pearl Mosque attract Muslims. In addition, in Islamabad is one of the largest mosques in the world – Faisal.
Thus, summing up the above, I want to note that the international prestige of Pakistan in the world is growing. Russia, China, Belarus, Central Asian countries are attaching increasing importance to cooperation with Pakistan. Today, Pakistan’s relations with these countries are becoming stronger and expanding both bilaterally and multilaterally against the background of American pressure on Eastern countries. Here, of course, it is important to note the successful foreign policy and a peace-loving policy of Pakistan.
PM Khan’s 8-Point Vision for SCO
PM Khan was of the view that rejecting confrontation, and advancing the imperatives of peaceful co-existence at the regional and international levels can bring a better future of people of SCO member states. Following is his 8-point vision for SCO:
1) Reinforce our vision of cooperation, that rejects confrontation, and advance the imperatives of peaceful co-existence at the regional and international levels.
2) Galvanize the “Shanghai Spirit” to strengthen SCO’s core mandate of mitigating the risks of conflict, fostering confidence, and promoting stability.
3) Finalize arrangements for trade in local currencies, and set up SCO Fund and SCO Development Bank to catalyze the trans-regional development agenda.
4) Synergize the various region-wide connectivity initiatives, and work on complementing infrastructure connectivity with soft connectivity, including digital, cultural, touristic, and academic.
I propose setting up SCO Culture & Tourism Corridors, clustering multiple SCO destinations into a single package.
5) Make SCO more relevant to the daily lives of citizens by promoting food security and enhancing cooperation in health and humanitarian sectors.
6) Take the lead role in establishing a comprehensive framework for combating corruption and white collar crime.
7) Prioritize women and youth empowerment by focusing inter-alia on strengthening the Women Forum and the Youth Council and mandating them to promote gender mainstreaming, skills acquisition and jobs mobility.
8) Bridge the gap between region-specific research and policy by launching feasibilities for creating SCO Centres of Excellence on Poverty Alleviation, De-Radicalization, Connectivity, and New Technologies.
The Bishkek Declaration
As the summit ended successfully, the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states issued the Bishkek Declaration, calling for enhanced cooperation to promote peace and development. Following are main points of teh Bishkek Declaration:
The SCO members reaffirmed their support for the efforts of the United Nations as a multilateral organization in maintaining international peace and security, advancing global development, and promoting and protecting human rights.
The member states emphasized their intention to extend and deepen cooperation in addressing threats to stability and security in the SCO region.
They condemned terrorism in all forms, and called on the international community to promote global cooperation in combating terrorism with the United Nations playing the central role.
The SCO members reaffirmed that unilateral and unlimited build-up of missile defense systems by countries or groups of states jeopardizes international security and destabilizes the world.
They deemed it unacceptable to ensure one’s own security at the expense of other states’ security.
The SCO members saw the consistent implementation of the Iran nuclear deal as a priority and called on all the participants to strictly fulfil their obligations for the comprehensive and effective implementation of the deal.
They stressed that there was no alternative to settling the conflict in Afghanistan through political dialogue and an inclusive peace process conducted and led by Afghans themselves.
The member states also reaffirmed their common stance on the Syria issue, stressing that holding dialogue on the basis of ensuring sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country is the only way out.
They considered it necessary to take action to form an effective cooperative system to tackle the drug threat.
The SCO members stressed the importance of improving the architecture of global economic governance, and deepening cooperation to build a transparent, predictable and stable environment for the development of trade, economic and investment cooperation.
The member states considered it important to utilize the potential of regional countries, international organizations and multilateral associations to promote broad, open, mutually beneficial and equitable cooperation in Eurasia.
The member states also pledged to strengthen exchange in the scientific, technical, cultural and tourism areas, promote interactions among young people, contribute to the further strengthening of neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation.
In the context of cooperation on climate change matters, the SCO Member States noted the agreements on the guiding principles for the practical implementation of the Paris Agreement reached at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Katowice.
- The Bishkek Declaration was finalised in the summit.
- Member countries signed 14 decisions at the summit, including cooperation in sports, healthcare and environment.
- The anti-narcotic strategy and the programme of action was amongst one of the documents signed.
- Discussions regarding terrorism, regional cooperation, Afghanistan, and economic issues were carried out during the summit.
- SCO urged the global community to work towards a consensus on adopting the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).
- It also emphasised the need to launch multilateral talks, at the Conference on Disarmament, on an international convention to combat acts of chemical and biological terrorism.
- SCO called for the international community’s joint efforts to counter attempts to involve young people in terrorism, separatism and extremist activities.
- The members committed to counter the use of information and communications technology to undermine political, economic and public security in the SCO countries.
- Opportunities for economic cooperation had a special focus, and SCO countries committed to strengthening economic cooperation.
- Countries also committed to supporting the World Trade Organisation structure.
- Also, building more people-to-people ties, tourism and cultural bonds within the grouping was stressed upon.
- On the sidelines of the summit, some cooperation agreements between SCO and UN-specialised agencies were also signed.
- Afghanistan – On Afghanistan, the Bishkek declaration stressed on an inclusive peace process led by “Afghans themselves”.