BRI & SCO and Role of Uzbekistan: An Expert Opinion | By  Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

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BRI & SCO and Role of Uzbekistan: An Expert Opinion

Time and again, the Head of States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) through a joint communiqué reaffirmed their support to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

The official statement supports the view that in Central Asia, the BRI is rated as an important tool for promoting a Post-Covid era of prosperity and stability.

In this connection, the signing of a joint declaration between China and Russia linking the BRI to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in 2015 has further strengthened the role of the BRI.

Russia has become a major supporter of the BRI as most railway routes from China to Europe pass through its territory.

Through the BRI, Russia should be able to rejuvenate some of its regions and create new opportunities in several sectors.

Furthermore, the “Silk Fund”, a Chinese state fund dedicated to financing BRI projects, has supported several initiatives in Russia.

Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are also fully “engaged” in the BRI. The increasing rail traffic between China and Europe has opened up new opportunities for both the important countries of Central Asia and of course SCO.

The BRI also supports Uzbekistan National Economic Development Strategy and Kazakhstan’s own national development policy “Nurly Zhol” that is focused on updating outdated infrastructure.

Tajikistan is home to several large BRI infrastructure projects (such as the 4G network deployed by Huawei). In Kyrgyzstan, several BRI projects have been in the process.

Together with Kyrgyzstan and China, Uzbekistan is developing a new highway that will provide a better connection between Central Asia and China.

Currently, the Republic of Uzbekistan holds the “Chairmanship” of SCO. In this regard, the 2022 annual summit of the SCO Heads of State Council will be held on September 15-16 in Samarkand.

Uzbekistan is one of the founders of the SCO established on June 15, 2001, in Shanghai and has been actively participating in its numerous activities.

Tashkent previously chaired the Organization three times (2003-2004, 2009-2010 & 2015-2016).

For the period (2017-2021) President of Uzbekistan initiated 45 important proposals and subsequently submitted  in the SCO summits aimed at increasing the effectiveness of cooperation in political, trade, economic, transport and logistics, innovation and other areas. 22 initiatives of these have already been implemented, 23 are in the process of being implemented.

Moreover, at the initiative of Uzbekistan, the “Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure” of the SCO was created in Tashkent which is commendable achievement.

Furthermore, the Uzbekistan SCO Chairmanship has some strategic priorities.  Firstly, complete modernization of SCO to achieve its real scope, utility, potential and functionality. Secondly, integrated and joint efforts to ensure peace and stability in the SCO space.

Thirdly, immense socio-economic integration, enhanced cooperation in diverse sectors of economy, trade, investment, joint venture, greater regional connectivity, transport communication interconnectedness. Fourthly, extended cooperation in social development in terms of poverty reduction and ensuring food security.

Fifthly, further strengthening of cultural, humanitarian and healthcare and climate change cooperation among the member countries of the SCO. Being chairman of the SCO, Uzbekistan succeeded in holding about 80 important events not in the country but also in the member countries.

Uzbekistan initiated, coordinated and completed the process of harmonization of 37 SCO documents in one year.

Moreover, 30 of these documents were initiated by Uzbekistan, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev adopted a “holistic” and “comprehensive” policy to further enhance and “integrate” “conceptual”, “contextual” and strategic importance of the SCO.

Thus institutional expansion of the spheres of interaction in the SCO has been further streamlined, systemized and strengthened.

New innovative ideas and documents have been submitted under the chairmanship of Uzbekistan mainly; “Transport Connectivity Strategy”, the “Plan for the Development of Intra-Regional Trade”, the “Infrastructure Development Program”, and the establishment of the institution of the “SCO Goodwill Ambassador”.

Furthermore, the “Economic Forum”, the “SCO Industrial Innovation Week”, the “Forum of the Heads of Regions”, the “Forum of Industrial Cooperation”, and the exhibition of fruits and vegetables “Sunny Uzbekistan” were held which further enhanced the efficacy of the SCO.

An innovative project “Uzbekistan-SCO industrial zone” is being created in the Samarkand region.

It is designed to become an effective mechanism for the implementation of the Program to stimulate industrial cooperation between the business circles of the SCO countries.

The total population of the SCO countries is almost 3.5 billion, which roughly accounts for half of the world, and the combined GDP is estimated to be exceeding 25 percent of the global GDP. Now SCO is the world’s largest regional organization.

The total territory of the member countries exceeds 34 million square kilometers, which is more than 60 percent of the territory of the Eurasian continent. It covers three continents: Asia, Europe and Africa.

So SCO holds the key to further socio-economic prosperity and greater regional connectivity in which Uzbekistan being the connecting hub would play an important role in the days to come.

So BRI-SCO would be an ideal combination to bring peace, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond.

Hopefully, under Uzbekistan’s SCO chairmanship, it would lead the member countries towards greater socio-economic integration, resolution of conflicts, combating state and non-state security threats, smart economies, smart living, green revolution, carbon neutrality, poverty reduction and e-commerce & government etc.

In the past during its chairmanships Uzbekistan streamlined easy & smooth sailing of the SCO in terms of water diplomacy, biodiversity, climate change and delimiting border issues and legal modalities.

To conclude, for the further strengthening of socio-economic and geopolitical integration, “banking and financial integration” of the SCO member countries is the need of the hour.

Sincere efforts should be carried out to prepare an “alternative SCO clearing and payment system” in order to avoid any imminent unilateral sanctions of the West.

Last but not the least, promotion of green and sustainable development, sharing experience and technology in environmental protection and building a beautiful home featuring harmonious coexistence between man and nature must be one of the main strategic priorities of the SCO 2022.

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