Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2019 By Muhammad Asif Noor

On May 22, Bishkek will be hosting meeting of Foreign Ministers of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) wherein Shah Mehmood Qureshi Foreign Minister of Pakistan will be attending this important meeting and will led the delegation from Pakistan. The meeting is scheduled in the backdrop to finalize the agendas to be discussed in the upcoming meeting of the Heads of the State and government level meetings scheduled to be held this June. Foreign Ministers will also approve important documents that will be presented during the upcoming heads of the state meeting in June 2019 in Bishkek. The Foreign Minister’s moot will discuss the international cooperation and sign some number of agreements as well. The meeting will be attended by the foreign ministers of Pakistan, India, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Earlier, SCO Member State Security Council Secretaries met chaired by Kyrgyzstan, SCO Women’s Forum, Business Forum concluded apart from the discussion forum held about the defense and strategic cooperation. The SCO’s Council of Foreign Ministers will be followed by the SCO’s Head of Government level meeting in June in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and it is expected the newly elected Indian prime minister will be attending the summit, as results of the Indian elections are due to be declared on May 23 followed by appointment of a new premier. Prime Minister Imran Khan, according to the sources, has not yet made any decision whether to attend the summit or not though Foreign Office has recommended to the Premier to avail the opportunity which will also provide prospects of meeting a number of heads of the governments of the SCO member countries including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pakistan puts high hopes in the SCO and is now an active member of this emerging regional grouping having potential to enhance the peace and stability in the region.
The chairmanship of SCO Summit 2019, 19th in line, was moved to Kyrgyzstan in earlier summit held in China last year. In March 2019, SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov disclosed the agenda of upcoming summit where member state leaders would engage in political dialogue to strengthen regional security, increase economic activities incorporating trade and promote cultural and humanitarian cooperation. In line with institutional scope of discussion, leaders would also deliberate on comprehensive regional and international issues. The upcoming SCO Summit has a huge potential to bring the consensus among regional countries and finalize the agreements to resolve issues especially related to the emerging threat of terrorism, conflicts and development matters. SCO often does not opt to discuss bilateral disputes amongst states and hence the countries are often dialogue on issues which are of multilateral in nature. This is also important in a sense that two permanent members of UN Security Council, major military powers and intra-regional economic players would be sharing a stage to exchange views. After 2nd Belt and Road Forum held in China during last week of April 2019, SCO summit is expected to be another gathering of utmost political significance. The inclusion of Pakistan and India in SCO glittered its institutional character transforming it into trans-regional organization. It has made initially disregarded organization a most relevant and largest regional platform in terms of geography, mass population and GDP quarter of the global total.
The institutional potential to contain conflict and prevent perpetrator of violence collectively should be the bare minimum ability of organization in order to earn international repute and credibility
Geographically, Pakistan acts as a cog in the wheel of SCO giving landlocked Central Asia and South Western Eurasia a land passage up to the deep water sea port at Gwadar, Baluchistan for cheap and exponential trade with the rest of the world. Chinese led Belt and Road Initiative and Pak-China led CPEC remains the mainstay of modern-day SCO in terms of connectivity, trade, economic integration and security cooperation. These are the projects which bolsters integrational characteristics to organization previously underestimated for its potential. Moreover, since China had not evolved up to the 2nd biggest world economy and formidable military power to ensure its relevance in power politics, SCO has been disregarded internationally. SCO remains the first multilateral organization diverse in scope with a potential of enhanced cooperation. It goes without doubt that expansion in SCO membership has given a boost to its international profile and credibility to Chinese leadership. Simultaneously it offers a test case for China to exert its position in regional and international issues and get prepared to assume much bigger role in world affairs.
The upcoming Summit of Foreign Ministers and later the Heads of State Summit also happening in the backdrop of the fact that two of its newly added members India and Pakistan were in loggerheads with each other in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack. Although the countries part of SCO including China, Russia and other Central Asian States advised for restraint but the SCO will not be able to address the bilateral disputes between two member countries but since it is a multilateral forum, there would not be any such discussion on the agenda right now. However, there would be call for the issues related to terrorism, peace and development. We have also observed recently when the SCO Military exercises took place where the two adverse armies were participating, among others, at single this platform for combined operations against terrorism and extremism. The institutional potential to contain conflict and prevent perpetrator of violence collectively should be the bare minimum ability of organization in order to earn international repute and credibility. SCO has started taking account of serious issues endangering regional and global security as Russia and China with global agenda of their respective foreign policy had shared view towards North Korean nuclear program and role of US in it, Iranian nuclear deal brokered by UN Security Council, Afghan Peace Process and diffusing tensions between India and Pakistan. This upcoming SCO summit would deliberate on regional and transregional security issues.
Given the track record of SCO, it starts a new chapter of cooperation every year to congregate its history and sets new goals to achieve. Moreover, the agenda of SCO is not directed against any state and international organization giving it a cushion to engage with more states on broader agenda. SCO is actively engaging with observer states and dialogue partners aims to expand membership of organization in coming years. Afghanistan has placed its bid for full membership, but its domestic instable politics and fragile security remains major obstacle hindering direct connectivity between South Asia and Eurasia. Afghanistan being full member of SCO can provide direct linkages to Central Asia with Indian Ocean passing through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Russia, China and Pakistan would actively take Afghanistan on board for regional integration. SCO has formed a Contact Group, one of its kind, to keep idea of peace afloat and contribute towards it. China has intended to include Afghanistan in CPEC, a pilot project of BRI, given its strategic central position in the region.
It has made SCO a platform for establishing mutual trust relations and developing cooperation within institutional framework. The credibility and potential of SCO as an organization is on the rise because of its inclusive policies driven by mutual respect and trust of member states.

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