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Dr. Zafar N. Jaspal |

The regional security is a prerequisite and paramount for national security. Without the mutual trust and trade between/among the regional actors, the prosperity of the entire region, in general, and state, in particular, is challenging in the twenty-first century. Hence, the visionary leaders always endeavor for securing the membership of regional organizations for their national interest. Fortunately, Pakistani ruling elite is not only cognizant of the significance of the regional organizations, but always seriously pursues the multilateral regional organization’s membership.

SCO membership would facilitate Islamabad in pursuing its counterterrorism agenda through cooperation and intelligence sharing with the Organization members.

Pakistan became a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on June 9, 2017. The full membership not only exhibits its significance in the Eurasian geopolitics but also offers Pakistan various political, economic, and strategic advantages. It provides an opportunity to materialize Islamabad’s vision about the peaceful regional cooperation. Appropriately, one of the objectives of the SCO, i.e. “protecting political interests of the member countries and promoting security, economic, and trade cooperation between them.” The primary objective of SCO is counterterrorism.

Read more: SCO membership of India & Pakistan brings challenges and opportunities

Article 1 of the Organization necessitates joint counteraction against terrorism, separatism, and extremism in all their manifestations. It also encourages regional cooperation in all spheres such as politics, trade and economy, defense, etc. to prevent international conflicts and their peaceful settlement. Perhaps, SCO membership would facilitate Islamabad in pursuing its counterterrorism agenda through cooperation and intelligence sharing with the Organization members. Hence, the Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure (RCTS) under SCO would be very useful for Pakistan in combating the menace of transnational terrorism.

The SCO membership provides Pakistan with a platform to promote peace, build trust, and spur economic development for shared prosperity. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, addressing the summit, stated: “The SCO goals resonate with Pakistan’s national ethos, and so do the core values of the Shanghai spirit and the SCO charter with our own quest for the peaceful neighborhood.” Admittedly, Pakistan has failed to convince its eastern and western neighbors that it believes in peaceful resolution of the bilateral disputes. Interestingly, its vision was echoed in the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposal of a five-year treaty for good neighborliness among SCO members.

“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 counter-weights and containment, let us create shared spaces for all.”
– Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Presently, Pakistan’s relations with India are tense. Islamabad also fails to convince Kabul that it sincerely supports the peace process in Afghanistan and does not permit its territory to be used by anti-Afghan forces. The tension between neighbors multiplied if they get a lesser chance for interaction. The recent SCO summit offered the opportunity to both Afghanistan and Pakistan to discuss their troubled bilateral relations. Premier Nawaz and President Ghani agreed to use the Quadrilateral Coordination Group mechanism and bilateral channels to undertake specific actions against terrorist groups and to evolve, through mutual consultations, a mechanism to monitor and verify such actions.

Read more: Threats to regional peace: The implications of a disrupted Afghanistan

Pakistan does not believe in containing and isolating any state. Instead of counterbalancing or strategic competition, Islamabad encourages cooperation for the mutual security and economic prosperity. Without mutual cooperation or economic interdependence sustainable progress in South Asia is impossible. Therefore, it has always advocated for amity instead of enmity among the neighboring states. Once again Premier Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s goodwill gesture to the neighboring states at the SCO forum. He stated: “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 counter-weights and containment, let us create shared spaces for all.” The creation of shared spaces for all, instead of isolating anyone, could only guarantee regional prosperity and security.

Pakistan’s full membership of the Organisation provides Islamabad an opportunity to pursue its regional and international agenda to create shared spaces for the prosperity of all nations.

Ironically, Premier Nawaz Sharif’s reconciliatory speech did not change the hawkish attitude of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He made a pugnacious speech in the summit and used the platform to reprimand Pakistan. He attempted to turn the SCO into another SAARC to appease his Western allies. Indeed, the presence of China and Russia in the Organization thwart his mischievous designs. Ignoring India’s bellicosity at the SCO forum seems an appropriate strategy.

Read more: Growing regional cooperation: Will the USA be driven out of South Asia?

Today, Pakistan is encountering energy crisis. The government has adopted multifaceted energy policy to resolve the power shortage crisis. The government of Pakistan has been contemplating to import gas and oil from the energy-rich Central Asia states such as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Perhaps, Pakistan’s SCO membership would help in facilitating in importing gas from these Central Asian states.

To conclude, the objectives of SCO and Pakistan’s vision about the regional/international security and prosperity converge. Thus, its full membership of the Organisation provides Islamabad an opportunity to pursue its regional and international agenda to create shared spaces for the prosperity of all nations.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been reprinted with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Director & Associate Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan, where he teaches various aspects of Strategic Studies; International Security; Nuclear/Missile Proliferation; Terrorism including CBNR Terrorism and Countermeasures; Arms Control/Disarmament; Domestic and Foreign Policies of the country. He is an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, Islamabad/London and a Course Coordinator at Foreign Services Academy Ministry of Foreign Affairs Islamabad. Prior to joining the University, he had been a Research Fellow at ISSI, IPRI, Islamabad, Pakistan. Dr. Zafar, as a Guest Speaker/Visiting Lecturer, had delivered and still continues to deliver lectures at NATO School, Oberammergau, Germany; Center of Excellence: Defence against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey; National Security & War Courses of Pakistan’s National Defence University; Intelligence Bureau Academy, Command and Staff College Quetta; Air War College, Karachi, and Foreign Service Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan. He holds Ph.D. and M. Phil in International Relations and M.A. in Political Science. He did advance Post Graduate Certificate courses in Peace and Conflict Studies, from European Peace University Stadtschlaining, Austria; Peace Research, International Relations and Foreign Policy Analysis from Oslo University, Norway. He also did CMC Training Course/ Cooperative Monitoring from Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States.

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