The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation grew out of the “Shanghai Five,” which was founded in 1996. The SCO was founded with an aim to strengthen relations among member states and promote cooperation in political affairs, economics and trade. The group, which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as full members. Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have an observer status. In a short period of time, the SCO has already begun to emerge as an important regional and international player and many compare its prospect and strength as of European Union and some term it as counterweight to NATO. Pakistan, which has been an observer at the SCO since 2005, applied for a permanent membership in 2010.

Recently held from 8-9 June, 2017 the SCO summit was important for Pakistan as it was formally admitted into the group. Beside Pakistan, India also became member of SCO and being now members of SCO, both Pakistan and India are expected to mend their ties and uphold the spirit of the SCO. In 2015 SCO summit held in Ufa Russia, the group had formally adopted a resolution which started the procedure to admit India and Pakistan into the SCO. Both the countries signed a Memorandum of Obligations to join the organisation and now with the enclosure of Pakistan and India as members, SCO will become a regional organisation with the largest reporting involving the biggest population.

With India and Pakistan becoming permanent members there is much hearsay as to how both countries will mould their future relations, particularly Indian behaviour which is mostly hostile towards Pakistan. Pakistan is looking forward for efforts in endorsing security, economic and trade cooperation among member states besides cooperating in efforts to address the challenge of terrorism. It is imperative to mention that SCO’s major emphasis is on enhancing regional cooperation along with handling the peril of terrorism and increasing militancy in region and ensuring regional security. Surely this can be achieved effectively with coordinated efforts among member states and inclusion of Pakistan as associate depicts that SCO countries equally realize the Pakistan’s efforts in curbing militancy.

As an observer Pakistan proved to be a responsible state and fulfilled desired objectives to be granted membership. Becoming part of the largest geographical block, definitely will upset those who want to isolate Pakistan in regional and international politics. India, too became member of SCO alongside Pakistan is expected to create troubles as traditional rival. As Sushma Suraj, Indian Minister for External Affairs stated before the summit on rumours of expected Nawaz Modi meeting that “talks and terror cannot go together.” This depicts Indian frustrations on Pakistan’s growing regional influence and stubbornness on not solving year’s old disputes between both countries. Likewise continued hostile remarks by Indian Army Chief and frosty relations between two countries after the Pathankot and Kulbhushan Yadav episode highlight India’s adamant behaviour and lingering resentment. There are apprehensions that both countries will end up with the kind of role they used to have in SAARC summits and hostility will always prevail. But with India as a giant state in SAARC, the case of SCO is pretty different as, China which is a dominant power in SCO and Russia equally trying to gain back its strength and hold authority in regional politics, chances of uni-centred power are less. India’s membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was backed by China. It is expected that with its growing influence in region SCO will represent over 40% of humanity and nearly 20% of the global GDP. Though India skipped OBOR summit held in China in May, 2017 portraying it as a China-Pakistan grouping to undermine India’s sovereignty and claimed India was not taken into confidence while implementing OBOR flagship projects in South Asia. By way of SCO membership in hand now, India must act as responsible state and stop threating and making false accusations on Pakistan and move forward for regional peace. Surely, not forgetting Kashmir which awaits for its future to be decided. SCO is going to be an economic forerunner if countries play their productive role and leave behind bequest of cooperation not conflict.

However side-lining India’s behaviour, Pakistan understands its relations with China and Russia. Pakistan is pursuing CPEC projects which are a part of the Chinese initiative of OBOR, and with other nations showing interest in being a part of CPEC and OBOR, Pakistan’s pivotal role in SCO’s in future cannot be ruled out. SCO will facilitate Pakistan in highlighting its role for regional economic and security cooperation. With Russia and other Central Asian republics, Pakistan shares historical and cultural associations, apart from robust economic and strategic balance. Therefore despite efforts by rivals to push Pakistan towards isolation cannot succeed as this organisation knows the crucial role played by Pakistan in restoring regional peace and stability by tackling extremism. If all the member states work together they can surely bring change in region by efforts to restore peace and can have their say on international forums more commendably. For SCO to succeed and keep the ball rolling every player has to step forward to make this club not only prolific on the economic front but other areas of mutual interest also.

 

The writer works at an Islamabad based think-tank.