The meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is significant for Pakistan in a number of ways. Firstly, it is the first meeting of the SCO after the coronavirus pandemic shook the world. A meeting of world leaders, amidst sweeping new developments such as a new US President and several new global alliances, is bound to be impactful any way, most of all during a pandemic when these meetings have become rarer.
Secondly, as the region’s geopolitics shift, Pakistan is increasingly becoming a player in new alliances being built. The SCO-CHG focuses primarily on economic and trade cooperation—there are many new developments and opportunities for Pakistan in that regard. The region is rife with potential for more trade, connectivity and integration, with Pakistan already being a player by working on projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This means that Pakistan has an incentive in better trade relationships between other countries in the region as well, particularly Iran, and peace in Afghanistan.
These are all important issues to raise—our goal going towards the meeting is to work towards our foreign policy objectives. So far, Pakistan is doing well—despite the obvious elephant in the room, which is that India is hosting the meeting. Their hosting is something Pakistan can use to its advantage—despite Indian officials throwing baseless allegations as usual, Pakistan has not given in to the theatrics and is focused on policy issues. This will allow us to continue undeterred in our foreign policy goals, as well as reveal India’s attempts to put obstacles to connectivity and peace, as it provokes stand-offs with not just Pakistan, but China as well.