SCO: The Greatest Alliance By Saleem Qamar Butt

The Pakistani premier was in Tajikistan on a two-day visit i.e. 16-17 September 2021, during which he attended the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO’s) Heads of State Summit in Dushanbe, which helped Pakistan to play a greater diplomatic role in galvanising regional support for helping war-ravaged Afghanistan regain peace, economic and security stability under Afghan Taliban rule after the eviction of the US-led interventionist bloc.

The SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation. The main goals of the SCO are strengthening mutual confidence and good-neighbourly relations among member countries; promoting effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy, science and technology, culture as well as education, energy, transportation, tourism, environmental protection and other fields; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region, moving towards the establishment of a new, democratic, just and rational political and economic international order. Military exercises are also regularly conducted among members to promote cooperation and coordination against terrorism and other external threats, and to maintain regional peace and stability. The SCO has three main components i.e. political, economic and security that in a way is considered a fitting response to the EU and NATO with the US in a leadership role. 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 organisation in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population.

I had the singular honour of being the maiden representative of Pakistan in the SCO Security Forum held in Beijing in early 2005 that paved the way for Pakistan’s invitation at the summit level in later part of the same year. Later on, from 2007 to 2010, I got another honour to be the Defence Advisor in Central Asian Republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), that not only helped in developing very strong and cordial military to military relations with all CARs and Russia, but also helped in developing and projecting greater understanding of SCO and CSTO potentials and urging the Government of Pakistan to make serious efforts to be permanent members of both the organisations for comprehensive security and economic interdependence and mutual pursuance of common regional as well as respective national security interest.

It is a matter of great satisfaction that consistent efforts led by military diplomacy and followed by political diplomacy have yielded positive results, with Pakistan now being permanent member of SCO and membership of CSTO around the corner, with just concluded outreach by Pakistani Prime Minister to Presidents of Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Iran, China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for expanding security and economic relations. It is satisfying to note that Pakistan’s stance on Afghanistan stands vindicated and all regional countries stand together to bring around peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Both the SCO and CSTO not only provide joint security umbrella to the member countries but also present greater opportunities for completion of CASA-1000 projects, enhanced regional connectivity, cooperation, interdependence, conflict resolution, economic interaction especially in the fields of science and technology, defence production, energy, education, agriculture, sports and tourism. It will be prudent that in the given milieu, the Government of Pakistan gives time bound specific goals to be achieved by our missions abroad and particularly in SCO member countries. Implementation of free visa regime and promotion of enhanced people to people contacts can bring around the desired miracle. Pakistan has been blessed with infinite natural resources, four weathers, resilient people, and above all a great geo-strategic location; sincere and visionary leadership can get the country on the path to long-awaited prosperity and comprehensive security that is the simplest manifestation of seeking national interest.

Last but not the least, Pakistan should not do any more heavy lifting especially with regards to urging the Afghan Taliban to give more reprieve to forever hostile proxies in Panjshir/Northern Afghanistan. While the fulfilment of promises made by the stakeholders is their respective responsibility including a broad based all-inclusive government, it is Afghan Taliban interim government’s obligation to hold elections in their own way and give representation to non-hostile minorities in Afghanistan including Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen etc.​

Source: Published in The Nation

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