Ensuring regional peace through ‘Shanghai Spirit’ utopia or reality?


Hadiqa Mir

Resurgent Russia and China’s rise are streaming a major shift in the global order. This has made Shanghai Cooperation Organization the promising organization of the world. The presence of two potential superpowers and their keen interest in the regionalist approach and complex interdependence has made the forum quite relevant for ensuring the regional peace for the larger gain. In this context, the slogan of “Shanghai Spirit” and adoption of all-inclusive approach has made the organization potentially more effective.
In the contemporary world dimensions conflict has been shifted from inter-state conflict to intra-state conflicts. The massive weaponisation, international compulsions and complex interdependence has raised the cost of war, hence making direct confrontation difficult to afford. However, the external liaisons impact and exasperate the internal factors therefore, internationalizing the internal conflicts. Today, peace is not only the absence of external threat/ war situation but the real threat to peace in modern times are three internal tribulations i.e. terrorism, extremism and insurgency that entail collective energies, channeled constructively for the larger goal. In the wake of current situation where the Asian region is going for the cooperative setup, the elimination of the potential threat is foremost important thing. Hence, SCO in this context provides the only institutionalized platform to address the above mentioned problems.
The deteriorated peace in Asian region is amalgamation of multilayered problem, from tug-of-war for the realpolitik to underdeveloped circumstances and extra regional influence or involvement. Henceforth, the internal weaknesses of the states are exploited by the external forces to preserve their gains. It is matter of fact that the rogue elements cannot sustain without transnational linkages, hence, the peace in the region is interdependent phenomenon and need synergized efforts and promotion of the regionalist thought for sustainable peace. Sensing the vulnerability to serious stability crisis, the regional giant China feel the importance of collaborative regional security arrangement hence raising the slogan of “Shanghai Spirit”. The formation of “Shanghai Spirit” lead to the creation of Shanghai Cooperation Organization first “Security Collaborative Organization” rather than “security directed” organization. The “Shanghai Spirit” emphasizes on the principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equal rights, consultations, respect for the diversity of cultures and aspiration towards common development. Apart from this the spirit has external dimension of security collaboration, non-alignment, non- targeting anyone and openness.
The SCO mechanism of combating three evils i.e. Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism projects a collaborative framework with five dimensions as following: Firstly, it has given flexible definitions of extremism and terrorism which are consistent with the interpretations used by the Central Asian, Russian and Chinese leaderships in their own domestic affairs. Secondly, it emphasizes on the mutual exchange of information regarding the security of the member states and destabilizing trans-border players. Thirdly, it encourages the promotion of the intelligence sharing between member states regarding the terrorist and extremist elements, external facilitators and supporters or cross border involvement of spoilers or rouge elements in other’s country. Fourthly, it encompasses the development of corresponding processes for the identification and punishment of the actors contravening convention in SCO region. Lastly, joint development of the methods to combat sub-state security threats through joint military exercises and institutionalized system i.e. Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure (RCTS) and Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).
On paper the proposed framework presents the ideal arrangement to address, what we call the three evils in language of SCO. The presented motto of “Shared Destiny” can incorporate the new regionalist identity in member states, based on mutual benefit. In addition, all-inclusive approach can address the intricate and multifaceted ethnic and religious confrontations of the region. However, the problem lies in the implementation of the outlined framework.
Although, agreement on common definitions at a very early stage and increased “economic interdependence” shows convergence of the interest, hence paving the way for the implementation of the agenda. Conversely, the divergence of security interests between the member states as in case of Pakistan and India and indirect influence of extra-regional forces raise questions on the efficacy of it.
The multilayered security issues of the states, lack of confidence between the member states and blame game against each other are possible hindering factors in taking full advantage of the available platform. Moreover, the dilemma of incapability to decide “freedom fighter” or “terrorist” and prevailing status quo in security domain further complicates the situation. Above all, accepting RATS as a supreme regional institute by member state, especially by four “security centric states” would be a pronounced question.
In the nutshell, SCO in general and RATS in particular has offered a virtuous framework to promote the traditional and non-traditional regional security however, to make the efforts worthy and peace sustainable there is need to implement the proposed framework. For this purpose there is utter need to develop the confidence of the member states on the institution and that would happen when there would be assurance of impartiality. Although, China is offering good opportunity to the regional countries through the “complex interdependence”, now it is up to the regional countries to capitalize the situation and to include the human security dimension to the security for the sustainability and elimination of the vulnerability.

The writer is student of M.Phil in Department of Peace and Conflict Studies of National Defence University, Islamabad.