In the last few years, following the amazing development and regional connectivity program Belt and Road initiated by visionary President of China Xi Jinping, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has emerged as an important forum on the international platform.
It not only brings together the two Eurasian giants, China and Russia, but also comprises members who have been granted either observer status or have been labeled as dialogue partners.
Outside of its participating countries, the organization has mainly attracted critics who question the organization’s viability and the democratic credentials of its members.
A number of Western scholars view the SCO as a counter to American interests. Major Jefferson of the United States Air Force has described the SCO as an “enigma… a security organization, a regional forum, an anti-terrorism coalition” and “… as a Russian and Chinese led alliance created to counter US hegemony”.
Some scholars have run parallel with the Warsaw Pact and even labeled the organization as a “NATO of the East”.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan in November 2018 in his 4-day visit to China also attended Shanghai Expo along with President Xi. During the visit, Prime Minister Imran Khan commended President Xi Jinping’s visionary Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that aims at enhancing regional and international connectivity. The two sides reiterated that BRI represents a win-win model of international cooperation and provides new opportunities for economic rejuvenation and prosperity of all countries. As a signature project of BRI, the fast development of CPEC has played a significant role in the Belt and Road cooperation
Pakistan joined this organization in 2017 and benefiting by this forum and also improving relations with neighboring countries.
During the China visit in November 2018 Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Russian counterpart held a meeting and the two leaders also agreed to enhance cooperation on multilateral forums, particularly the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. They also exchange views on regional issues, including the situation in South Asia and Afghanistan.
In June, 2019 Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan will be attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Bishkek and will be highlighting this forum while our Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi is also here and attending this forum in Bishkek.
Formation of “Media Coordination Committee of SCO”: Taking the opportunity I would like to suggest this forum to form a “Media coordination committee of SCO” of key information officers of governments of all members and observing countries to promote SCO, its goal, its achievements, and its objectives continuously throughout the world especially in member countries. Central Secretariat of SCO should inform its activities, achievements and affairs of SCO to all members of Media Coordination Committee for proper propagation in all electronic and Print Media in their respective country and to international media organizations.
Pakistani journalists are already contributing their positive role in promotion of Chinese visions properly like on SCO, B&R and CPEC and urbanization and industrial development in China under the B&R by publishing news, Articles and spreading information through electronic and Print media. One Pakistani journalist also published two Travelogues on China “Wonderful China” and “Amazing China” and hundreds of articles in newspapers highlighting Vision of Chinese President on SCO, Industrialization, Urbanization and Developments in China and Fruits of Belt and Road Program spreading now up to 150 countries including Asia, Eurasia, Africa and Europe.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO): According to my collected information, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic and military organization, which was founded in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan in the year 2001.
The aim of SCO is to establish cooperation between member nations on: military cooperation, Intelligence sharing, countering terrorism, and countering the American influence in Central Asia. India and Pakistan are the newest inclusion to the Organisation and it added another 1.45 billion people in the SCO making the group cover around 40 percent of the global population. Both these nations signed the memoranda for becoming a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in 2016.
The SCO is widely regarded as the “alliance of the East”, due to its growing centrality in Asia-Pacific, and has been the primary security pillar of the region.
It is the largest regional organization in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population.
In 2017, SCO’s eight full members account for approximately half of the world’s population, a quarter of the world’s GDP, and about 80 percent of Eurasia’s landmass.
Counteracting Threats to Peace and Security: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was established as a multilateral association to ensure security and maintain stability across the vast Eurasian region.
Following the principles of openness, SCO does not intend to form any alliances or direct its actions against any sovereign entity.
It actively and consistently pursues dialogue, exchanges and cooperation, and stands for strict observance of the purposes and principles inscribed in the Charter of the United Nations, such as equality and sovereignty of States.
It aimed at maintaining peace and security, establishing partnerships between States, protecting national sovereignty and respecting the right to determine one’s own destiny and path forward for political, socioeconomic and cultural development.
The landmark summit of SCO heads of member States in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 8-9 June 2017 launched a new stage in the organization’s development.
One of its principle outcomes was the granting of full SCO membership to India and Pakistan.
The accession of these two powerful and influential South Asian States has allowed the SCO to strengthen its capacity and expand the spectrum of its opportunities, including in the sphere of combating existing and emerging challenges and threats.
By merging four nuclear powers half of the world’s nuclear States into a single regional organization, SCO serves as an additional deterrent within the system established to maintain the world’s strategic balance of power and political stability.
SCO continues its support for an even more prominent coordinating role for the United Nations in international relations, with an emphasis upon the further development of close cooperation with the world organization.
A number of special initiatives launched under the auspices of the United Nations and SCO have noticeably contributed to the enhancement of international cooperation in fighting common challenges and threats to security.
An example in point is the outcome of the high-level special event on “The United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Jointly Countering Challenges and Threats”, held in November 2016 in New York, as well as the high-level side event on “The United Nations and Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Fight Against Drugs: Common Threats and Joint Actions”, held in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in March 2017 in Vienna.
SCO will continue to make coordinated efforts to fight common challenges and threats to security, broaden dialogue and reinforce collaboration in ensuring comprehensive security by countering terrorism, cyberterrorism, separatism, extremism, transnational organized crime, and illicit drug trafficking, as well as reinforcing international information security and emergency response.
The SCO common response to the steadily growing threat of extremism is the SCO Convention on Countering Extremism, adopted at the summit in Astana.
The spread of extremist ideology and propaganda, including the public justification of terrorism as a means of incitement to committing terrorist acts, has been particularly dangerous under the circumstances.
In this relation, SCO will enhance joint efforts to counteract societal radicalization, which results in the manifestation of the worst forms of extremism, including terrorism, especially among young people.
Along with cooperation between law enforcement authorities and judicial bodies, special emphasis will be placed upon strengthening the leading role of States in combating terrorism, separatism and extremism.
Countering Illicit Drug Trafficking is among SCO Principal Priorities: Illicit drug production and trafficking remains one of the most serious threats to security that undermines international peace and stability.
Building upon the 2004 Agreement on Cooperation between SCO Member States in Combating Illicit Trafficking of Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Precursors, the 2015 Statement by the Heads of SCO Member States on Drug Threat, and in accordance with provisions of United Nations conventions and resolutions, including the outcomes of the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem, held in April 2016 in New York. SCO will further develop cooperation and coordinate member States’ actions in combating this threat.
Cooperation between authorities of SCO member States proved to be fairly successful. In order to effectively fight the drug threat, it will be necessary to consolidate the efforts of the international community as a whole.
In this connection SCO intends to continue its close collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
SCO will undertake additional measures to help develop regional economies, provide favourable conditions for trade, support investment initiatives, enhance infrastructure, build industrial parks whenever the appropriate conditions allow, and improve the quality of life for respective population.
Cultural Dialogue as a Preventive Measure against Threats to Security: A major reason in establishing mutual trust, friendship and neighbourly relations between SCO member States is their cooperation in cultural, educational and scientific spheres. Well-established ongoing cultural dialogue among SCO nations contributes to learning about and enriching one another’s cultural experiences, which finally leads to a greater level of mutual understanding.
Cultural dialogue brings people together, and unites them around common humanistic values and aspirations, helping to reduce xenophobia, religious and ethnic intolerance, and discrimination based on ethnic and racial background. Such dialogue includes a principle SCO goal of bringing civilizations together.
The rich historical and cultural legacy of the peoples of SCO countries is embodied in cultural sites that currently comprise 20 per cent of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Learning about these landmarks presents a unique opportunity to become acquainted with the vibrant history of the Eurasian region, enjoy the different palette of its unique national and cultural attributes, and better understand the mentality and worldview of people residing there.
Meeting of SCO National Coordinators Council in Beijing: Participants in the meeting discussed the preparations for the SCO Summit in Bishkek in June 2019 and exchanged opinions on the documents submitted to the Heads of State meeting.
They also discussed issues related to the holding of other events in Bishkek under the SCO presidency of the Kyrgyz Republic, such as meetings of security council secretaries, the Foreign Ministers Council and the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, meetings of ministers of culture, defence and heads of anti-drug agencies, the Business Forum, the Journey in the Name of Peace exhibition, as well as the Second SCO Women’s Forum.
The parties supported the Kazakh side’s initiative to send the SCO Observer Mission to monitor the preparations and holding of the snap presidential election in Kazakhstan on 9 June 2019.
Participants in the meeting also listened to a report by the Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) on a draft report on the performance of RATS in 2018.
The SCO Secretariat presented the Eight Wonders of the SCO project, which includes a series of presentations related to the tourist potential of SCO member states with the participation of representatives of diplomatic and trade missions, SCO countries’ tourist agencies, tourist companies, tour operators and other relevant mechanisms of the organization.
India-Pakistan Tensions Test the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Mettle: At the next SCO summit in June, the matter of calming tensions between its newest member states, India and Pakistan, is important.
Two years after its expansion to include India and Pakistan, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will face a big challenge at its 19th Summit of Heads of State in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, on June 14-15.
In light of the recent upsurge of violence between India and Pakistan, the security grouping must clarify its stance on potential future conflicts between member states in order to retain its international credibility.
The fact that the SCO also strives to strengthen mutual trust and good neighbourly relations between its member states further led many to predict that the expansion would lead to the organization’s failure rather than an amelioration of India-Pakistan relations.
SCO as the first multilateral organization: SCO as the first multilateral organization ever created by China is another case in point. Including its regional rival India and “all-weather friend” Pakistan into the SCO helped China turn the organization from a grouping largely disregarded beyond the region into the largest regional organization both in terms of its geographical coverage (over 60 percent of the Eurasian landmass) and population (almost half of the world’s population) with its collective gross domestic product amounting to almost 25 percent of the global total.
It goes without saying that the expansion has given an encouragement to the SCO’s international profile. It has also become more important for China to score success with the organization.
The escalation of tensions between the two nuclear powers is the first high-level military conflict between current SCO members and poses a serious challenge to the 18-year-old organization.
After continued exchanges of fire, both Russia and China offered their assistance in defusing tensions and proposed using the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) as a suitable platform.
SCO can Deescalate India-Pakistan Tensions: Before the addition of the two South Asian nations, the SCO consisted of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
The now eight-member SCO also has four observer states, including Afghanistan, and six dialogue partners, including Sri Lanka. Together, they constitute much of Asia’s geography, with a population of over 3 billion people.
The foundational purpose of SCO as the largest intergovernmental organization in the world is to strengthen mutual trust and promote good neighborly relations among its member states.
This is to be achieved through gradual but consistent efforts by the SCO member states to engage in multifaceted cooperation to advance their collective, common interest in the sustainable human and protective security of the SCO space. Parallel to this, the SCO seeks to establish a more democratic and rational world order.
Because sustainable peace makes sustainable development possible in Asia and the rest of the world, the SCO summits emphasize the importance of results-driven security cooperation among member states, observer states, and dialogue partners.
The addition of India and Pakistan was widely welcomed as a significant opportunity for the SCO to address the lingering security threats of terrorism, extremism, and separatism in South and Central Asia.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the 18th SCO Summit in Qingdao, called on the SCO’s expanded membership to move from talk to action. Need to actively implement the 2019-2021 program of cooperation for combating ‘three evil forces of terrorism, separatism, and extremism
There is need to actively implement the 2019-2021 program of cooperation for combating ‘three evil forces of terrorism, separatism, and extremism;’ continue to conduct the ‘Peace Mission’ and other joint counter-terrorism exercises.
It is vital to give full play to the role of SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group to facilitate peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan.
Xi added that “Countries are increasingly inter-dependent today… confronted with many common threats and challenges that no one can tackle alone.
Moreover, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed the accession of India and Pakistan to the SCO.
He stressed that “countering terrorism remains the priority for cooperation within the SCO,” underlining that the three-year program of action, adopted at the 18th Summit, “envisions holding joint drills and counter-terror operations, streamlining a closer exchange of experience and operational information.”
He also encouraged the SCO Youth Council to “actively participate in work on preventing the recruitment of young people to participate in terrorist activities.”
The writer is Director General, Press Information Department (PID), Karachi.