The SCO is the successor to the Shanghai Five, a mutual security agreement formed in 1996 between China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. It was the era of unrest in central Asia, and separatist and extremist movement was a common threat to the whole region. With this background, the purpose of “The Shanghai Five” was to stabilize the region through mutual cooperation and joint efforts.
On 15 June 2001, the leaders of these nations and Uzbekistan met in Shanghai to announce a new organization with deeper political and economic cooperation; the SCO Charter was signed on 7 July 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003. Its membership has since expanded to eight states, with India and Pakistan joining on 9 June 2017.
Several countries are engaged as observers or dialogue partners
The SCO has established relations with the United Nations in 2004 as an observer in the General Assembly, Commonwealth of Independent States in 2005, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2005, the Collective Security Treaty Organization in 2007, the Economic Cooperation Organization in 2007, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2011, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in 2014, and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in 2015. SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) established relations with the African Union’s African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) in 2018.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic, and security organization. In terms of geographic scope and population, it is the world’s largest regional organization, covering approximately 60% of the area of Eurasia, 40% of the world population, and more than 30% of the global GDP.
With current tense geopolitics, especially unrest in Ukraine, the US launched the cold war against China, the tension in the South China Sea, Middle-east, Iran, etc., the importance of SCO has been enhanced and gained momentum. With the aggressive policies launched by the US, many countries are scared to be the next target of American ambitions. More nations are willing to join SCO, as a refuge and shelter against American aggression.
The 2022 annual summit of the SCO Heads of State Council will be held on September 15-16 in Samarkand. Uzbekistan took over the chairmanship of the organization from Tajikistan on September 17, 2021. Uzbekistan’s President, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, outlined the priorities and tasks of the chairmanship. These include efforts to raise the potential and authority of the organization, ensure peace and stability in the region, reduce poverty, and ensure food security. Furthermore, he urged putting together a plan for the development of intraregional trade, which will include measures to eliminate trade barriers, align technical regulations and digitalize customs procedures.
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Pakistan is a very active member of the SCO and plays a vital role in connecting Central Asia, East Asia, China, Russia, and Afghanistan to the Rest of the world through its newly developing seaport of Gwadar. Gwadar is specially designed to cater to the land lock nations and regional countries to link with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Pakistan is truly serving as a bridge in the Eurasia region. Its location is vital for international trade and can reshape and change the pattern of global trade in the years to come.
On the special invitation from SCO Secretary-General Ambassador Zhang Ming, Prime Minister Sharif will participate in the bloc’s annual summit. Preparations for his visit are in line, the agenda is being finalized and his team is ready to actively participate in this Summit.
For Pakistan, this Summit is very important, as it is passing through a critical era, were facing multiple challenges, the most immediate being fighting against the unprecedented flood, which hit the country adversely, the economic crisis, political challenges, etc.
For PM Shabaz Sharif, it will be an opportunity to interact with the head of state of the member countries. He is likely to have a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Uzbekistan. He is likely to meet his counterpart, Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi during the SCO summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif assured Pakistan’s full support in the fulfillment of the purposes and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), under his stewardship. He hoped that all SCO members would continue to work together for building peace and enhancing international solidarity and cooperation.
The prime minister was talking to the secretary general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Ambassador Zhang Ming, who called on him in the federal capital.
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The prime minister also reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong commitment to the principles of the SCO Charter and the “Shanghai Spirit.” He highlighted the current global challenges manifested in the high fuel and food prices and the resultant food insecurity as well as economic and financial difficulties for a large number of countries, including SCO members.
Appreciating the comprehensive development agenda of SCO, the prime minister emphasized that the core purpose of the organization remained the growth and prosperity of the SCO region and how well the SCO leaders were responding to the aspirations and ambitions of their people to have better standards of living. He underlined Pakistan’s priorities and national development goals as well as important areas of interest within the SCO framework of cooperation, including trade and economy; connectivity and transport; poverty alleviation; energy; agriculture and food security; climate change; security; information technology; digitalization; and cultural and people-to-people linkages.
The prime minister underlined the need for developing appropriate funding mechanisms to promote intra-SCO trade as well as development initiatives. Stressing the enhancement of transport and communication links, the prime minister underscored the importance of the connectivity agenda and, in this regard, also highlighted that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could serve as a useful model in its facilitation.
The prime minister also shared his perspective on a number of specific regional and global security issues as well as SCO’s role in promoting stability in the region and beyond. In this context, he appreciated the work of SCO-RATS where Pakistan, together with other member states, was playing an active role in countering common security challenges.
Pakistan attaches high importance and expectations to the Summit
Peace and stability in the region are also outlined on the agenda for the upcoming SCO summit. This gives Pakistan and India a chance to further the anti-terrorist program in the region through mutual partnerships in the (RATS- SCO).
Last but not the least, SCO Summit also provides a platform to discuss tech regulations and digitalization among member countries. It is particularly important for Pakistan at this time as recently 265 Indian websites have been reported that are operational in over 65 countries creating anti-Pakistan propaganda. Already the reports of EU DisInfo Lab and the Indian utility of Pegasus spyware have raised concerns regarding the 5th generation warfare against Pakistan. The reports of the Indian BJP blocking Pakistani websites and Radio Pakistan broadcasts in India further aggravates the situation simmering tensions between the two neighbors. However, SCO can prove to be a platform for mitigating the issues by addressing both sides of the border, neutrally.
One thing is clear if Pakistan and India want to work out their differences, which they should do for the greater good, SCO is a promising platform at present. It can only be hoped that both countries rise above hot-button politics and get involved in purposeful policy-making that fosters nothing but peace and growth in the region.
However, Indian tilt toward the US, as a Major Defense Partner and Strategic Alliance, member of Quade, and close ties with Japan, and Australia, are creating doubts about Indian sincerity with SCO. On one hand, India is a member of SCO, where Russia and China are major countries, on the other hand, close ties with America, Japan, and Australia, who are rivals to China and Russia is a conflicting phenomenon. Let the member states decide the future course with India.
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Founding Chair GSRRA, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization). (E-mail: email@example.com). The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy.