In the backdrop of the new global politics and the challenges and threats that it has thrown up, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a harbinger of peace and security in this region besides being a catalyst for enhanced economic cooperation between the member states. It is unique in the sense that it is based on a new model of state-to-state relationship that derives its strength from cooperative configuration rather than binding them into a formal alliance like NATO. The resolve of SCO to fight the menace of terrorism, promoting regional peace and security and working for shared economic prosperity are very much in harmony with what Pakistan is looking for and needs desperately. Pakistan’s resolve to look to the region where it belongs, for finding solutions to its economic woes and other debilitating challenges represents a visionary paradigm shift in the conduct of its foreign relations.
The 18th SCO Summit held in the coastal city of Qingdao in Shandong province of China in mid-June ended on a promising note with all the member states including Pakistan and India, who were new additions to the organization, unanimously reiterating to uphold the SCO spirit besides re-endorsing the fulfillment of its stated objectives.
The communiqué issued at the end of the summit said that the SCO members consistently support the mediation of regional conflicts under the framework of norms and principles of international law and continuation of the implementation of Iran nuclear deal. It also approved the 2019-2021 programme of cooperation for combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, noting that it would further promote pragmatic cooperation among the member states in that respect. The member states stressed the significance of improving global economic governance system, consolidation and developing the multilateral trade mechanism with the World Trade Organization at its core and building an open world economy. The member states also emphasized that the SCO had seen continuously expanding potential for cooperation and after the accession of India and Pakistan had become a unique, influential and authoritative regional organization.
Chinese President Xi Jin Ping at a joint press conference said “ All parties will continue to work in line with the principles of mutual benefit to improve regional economic cooperation arrangement, enhance the Belt and Road Cooperation as well as our respective development strategies, deepen cooperation in business, investment, finance, connectivity and agriculture, advance trade and investment facilitation and foster new prospects for integrated development of the region to deliver benefits to our people and add fresh impetus to global growth. The SCO members will uphold the authority and efficacy of WTO rules, strengthen an open, inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules-based multilateral trading regime, and oppose trade protectionism of any form.” It was surely an exhaustive resume on what the SCO stood for and cherished.
Pakistan expressed unqualified support for SCO connectivity initiatives and its objectives. It may be pertinent to point out that when the secretary general of the SCO Rashid Alimov visited Pakistan in March this year the then Prime Minister offered to connect CPEC with SCO’s six approved routes observing that it would greatly enhance their vitality to become a conduit for linking Eurasian landmass, China, Russia, Central Asia and Arabian sea.
Pakistan was formally admitted as full member of SCO along with India at the 17th SCO summit in Astana on June 9, 2017. It was indeed a momentous day for Pakistan which for quite some time had been vying to become a member of this regional organization whose goals resonated with its national ethos and quest for peaceful neighborhood. In my discourses on the obtaining regional situation and the emerging security scenario, I have been invariably agitating the point that Pakistan’s security and economic prosperity were inextricably linked to the region where it belonged.
Pakistan’s addition to SCO has added vitality to the organization as it possessed great potential for global and regional trade as well as economic activities. With a consumer market of 200 million people, vast business potential and a rapidly developing infrastructure, it offers SCO enormous opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and fulfilling the vision of the organization. The CPEC which is a pivot of the OBOR also compliments the SCO vision of connectivity and economic integration.
The presence of giants like Russia and China in the SCO along with Central Asian states, rich in natural resources, promises infinite opportunities for peace and economic prosperity of the region. Granting of observer status to Afghanistan and associating Turkey with SCO have further strengthened the Organization. The economic linkages evolved through the SCO forum will also strengthen prospects of regional security.
Pakistan presently faces an existentialist threat from terrorism and religious extremism and the member states of the SCO are also victims of this menace in varying degrees. Making a common cause and fighting collectively to stop it in its tracks stands a better chance of success and Pakistan can contribute to this effort as well as benefit from it tremendously. Pakistan is also confronted with a severe energy crisis and the materialization of TAPI and other trans-regional power and gas projects—for which Russia has already expressed its support in material terms—- could help her to tide over the problem and nudge the process of economic revival.
Pakistan is engaged in diversifying its exports and finding new and easily accessible markets for its products. The SCO states with almost one fourth of the world population having geographical proximity with Pakistan and easy accessibility constitute a very lucrative market for its exports. Similarly it can attract the required investments in the energy and infrastructure sector in which some of the SCO countries have a comparative advantage. The strategic location of Pakistan in the region and its economic potential can also help the SCO members to exploit their economic potential to the maximum. With the prospects of Afghanistan and Iran and possibly Turkey also joining the Organization in the near future, SCO is likely to emerge as a very strong regional Organization.
The SCO also has an international dimension. One of its purposes is to work together to promote and create a new political and economic world order. In the prevailing global environment wherein a sole super power supported by its western allies is feverishly engaged in fashioning a new world order chiseled to its own perceptions which in certain cases has created more threats for the world peace and security, the role of SCO in firming up the new world order and eliminating the vulnerabilities of this region to foreign intervention, assumes greater significance. Regional organizations like SCO are perhaps the best forums to strengthen regional security and preserving world peace. The foregoing facts made a very strong case for Pakistan to seek membership of SCO and present it with a historic opportunity to make amends for its past follies in the arena of foreign relations. The foreign policy of Pakistan has finally found the right direction that promises to serve its national interests.
The writer is a freelance columnist.
The presence of giants like Russia and China in
the SCO along with Central Asian states, rich in natural resources, promises infinite opportunities
for peace and economic prosperity of the region.