The month of June 2017 has witnessed an important international event. The two archrivals India and Pakistan, with a bitter rivalry that spans nearly 70 years and shows no signs of abatement, have joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as its full members. Pakistan’s membership (as well as India’s) was a part of a process, from Observer status to full membership upon request in 2010, and due to a founding member’s support – China for Pakistan and Russia for India. What is critical from Pakistan’s perspective is that the presence of the two giants in SCO would preclude India using this forum to embarrass Pakistan by hurling unsubstantiated accusations which Western powers to date have endorsed by pressurizing Pakistan to do more.
On 9th June, 2017, Pakistan was granted membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Pakistan had been observer to this bloc since 2005. The organisation decided to grant Pakistan status of a full member during its 2015 Summit held in Ufa, Russia.
SCO is the predecessor of the 1996 organisation Shahghi-5, comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It was renamed SCO in 2001 after the inclusion of Uzbekistan. The primary objective of the organisation was to enhance trade among member countries by connectivity and regional cooperation, to protect political integrity of the member countries and promote security, economic and trade cooperation among them and to foster regional connectivity. The organisation has expanded its domain from regional trade and included cooperation on counter-terrorism.
The presence of two big regional economic powers i.e. China and Russia makes this organisation more potent. The charter of this organisation clearly states the main goals and tasks of SCO which are: “to strengthen mutual trust, friendship and good neighborliness between the member States; to consolidate multi-disciplinary cooperation in the maintenance and strengthening of peace, security and stability in the region and promotion of a new democratic, fair and rational political and economic international order; to jointly counteract terrorism, separatism and extremism in all their manifestations.” China has already taken a big initiative in the form of ‘One Belt, One Road’ project, through which it intends to connect Asia, Africa, Middle East and Central Asia by building highways, railways and sea routes. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is also one of the parts of this vision.
EU’s forerunner, the European Economic Community (EEC) was also formed as a trade union of various countries of Europe. With the passage of time, its domain was enhanced from trade to a kind of loose confederating system having its own parliament, currency, visa-free policy and other incentives for member states. Though dented with UK’s decision to leave the Union, the EU is still a great influencing factor in the world affairs and has strong economic standing in the world economy.
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is also a window of opportunity for the countries of this region. Countries like Pakistan, India and Afghanistan can work together from the platform of this organisation. Pakistan and India have been granted status of full members during the recent Astana Summit whereas Afghanistan is having status of an observer in the organisation. Central Asia is an oil- and gas-rich region. The road connectivity and regional trade can change the trade ratio in the region. Central Asian countries are landlocked, Pakistan would be an opportunity for them to access the seaports and use this route for trade. Stability in Afghanistan is also a key for the economic uplift of this region. Pakistan has always been ardent advocate of Afghanistan’s stability. Hopefully, this regional connectivity and having a shared decision of countering terrorism would help in building ties among countries of this region. On the sidelines of the Summit, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to restore quadrilateral talks. China and USA are also part of this Quadrilateral Coordination Group. There is urgent need to resume these talks and give peace a chance for bringing an end to the lingering conflict in Afghanistan.
This is an ideal and opportune time for the countries of South Asia. India should also realise that we need to have a way for a secure and prosperous future for coming generations. It should stop its tirades against Pakistan. It should also stop sowing hostility in the region.
Mr Nawaz Sharif has rightly reiterated his commitment to peaceful coexistence in the summit. He clearly spelled out his vision in SCO Summit saying “As leaders, we should leave a legacy of peace and amity for our future generations, not a toxic harvest of conflict and animosity. Instead of talking about counterweights and contaminants, let us create shared spaces for all.” Undoubtedly, time is changing very fast and, presently, economic tilt is in favour of Asia. Countries like Pakistan and India should take advantage of this.
The Astana Summit is historic for Pakistan and will have long-term repercussions in the region. Prime Minister has rightly mentioned in his speech that “the SCO had been transformed into true transcontinental organisation. The SCO played the role of sheet anchor for regional progress and prosperity in view of the global changes.” As a torchbearer of peace in the region, Mr. Sharif congratulated first India for becoming full members of SCO but the hawkish remarks of Mr Modi in his speech showed that the policymakers in India are not in a mood to normalise relations with Pakistan. Pakistan is pursuing its policy of peaceful coexistence and non-interference. Sooner or later, Indian leaders would also realise that the panacea for all ills is in dialogue and having good neighbourly relations in the region.
SCO is an economic bloc representing half of humanity as the total population of its member countries is half of the world population. The total GDP of the organisation accounts for one quarter of the world GDP. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a big opportunity and Pakistan has joined it at a right time. Pakistan is expanding its influence in the region and inviting other countries to join the march of development. We hope that at some time in future, countries of South Asia also realise the importance of regional connectivity and economic prosperity.
All you need to know about SCO
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a political, military and economic alliance comprising Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and now Pakistan and India as well.
The SCO was founded by the leaders of the six member states — China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — in Shanghai on June 15, 2001. The history of the SCO, however, dates back to 1996, when Russian, Chinese, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Tajik leaders signed the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions in Shanghai. A year later, the same leaders in Moscow signed the Treaty on the Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions, and these two documents facilitated cooperation between the countries.
In June 2002, SCO leaders signed the SCO Charter at a St. Petersburg summit in Russia, which came into force on September 19, 2003. The Charter was a fundamental statutory document determining the organization’s purposes and principles, as well as its structure and principal areas of activity.
The SCO’s main goals include:
- to strengthen mutual trust, friendship and good neighbourliness between the member States;
- to consolidate multi-disciplinary cooperation in the maintenance and strengthening of peace, security and stability in the region and promotion of a new democratic, fair and rational political and economic international order;
- to jointly counter terrorism, separatism and extremism in all their manifestations, to fight against illicit narcotics and arms trafficking and other types of criminal activity of a transnational character, and also illegal migration;
- to encourage efficient regional cooperation in such spheres as politics, trade and economy, defence, law-enforcement, environment protection, culture, science and technology, education, energy, transport, credit and finance, and also other spheres of common interest;
- to facilitate comprehensive and balanced economic growth, social and cultural development in the region through joint action on the basis of equal partnership for the purpose of a steady increase in living standards and improvement of living conditions of the peoples of the member states;
- to coordinate approaches to integration into the global economy;
- to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the international obligations of the member states and their national legislation;
- to maintain and develop relations with other states and international organisations;
- to cooperate in the prevention of international conflicts and in their peaceful settlement; and
- to jointly search for solutions to the problems that would arise in the 21st century.
Astana Summit 2017
The 17th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit took place in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on June 8-9, 2017, with the accession of India and Pakistan, and anti-extremism convention topping the agenda amid hopes of bolstering the organisation’s presence in Eurasia.
During the meeting of the Council of the SCO Heads of State, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev noted the accession of India and Pakistan would give new impetus to the growing-in-numbers organisation and raise its international status.
In addition to the final Astana Declaration, the SCO leaders have signed 10 other documents, including a convention on combating extremism and a declaration on the joint fight against international terrorism.
Astana Declaration concluded in the following words:
“Emphasising their unwavering commitment to peace, joint development and equitable cooperation, and greater dialogue and interaction with the international community, the member states will do all they can to bolster peace and stability and promote trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian ties in the SCO in line with the SCO Development Strategy Towards 2025 and the 2016-2020 Plan of Action for its implementation.
The next meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council will be held in June 2018 in the People’s Republic of China. The chairmanship of the SCO now passes to the People’s Republic of China for the forthcoming period.”