News & Views
On Friday, Pakistan became a full member of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) after signing Memorandum of Obligations (MoOs). The document was jointly signed by the Foreign Ministers of Six SCO member states, Secretary General SCO and Pakistan’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs. Pakistan has been an observer at SCO since 2005, and has been a regular participant in the meetings of SCO and was the first SCO observer to apply for full membership in 2010. Pakistan’s request for membership was approved in principle at the SCO heads of state summit in Ufa, Russia in July 2015, when the SCO Heads of State Council had ‘agreed to launch the procedure’ of accepting Pakistan as a member state of SCO. India has also signed the memorandum and is likely to become member in the summit to be held next year.
Putin also said at the Friday summit that there were ‘no obstacles’ left for Iran – currently an SCO observer – to join the organisation now that sanctions connected to Tehran’s nuclear programme have been lifted. Council of Heads of State approved full membership of Pakistan and India to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in July last year after fulfilling certain statutory and legal requirements. China and Russia have been instrumental in making Pakistan full member of the SCO. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was created on June 15, 2001 in Shanghai (China) by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In 2006, Pakistan with observer status in security grouping had applied for its full membership, and now it is full member of the SCO.
According to the SCO Charter, the main goals of the SCO are strengthening mutual confidence and good-neighborly relations among member countries. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping in a briefing to reporters after July 2015 summit had said: “India and Pakistan’s admission to the SCO will play an important role in the SCO’s development and a constructive role in the improvement of their bilateral relations.” SCO’s member states take up 60 percent of Eurasia and a quarter of the world’s population. It is the successor to the “Shanghai Five” – China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Set up in 1996 as the Shanghai Five, its objective was to resolve border disputes and terrorism that emerged in the wake of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. China had promised to get Pakistan into SCO as a permanent member, and Central Asian states and Russia were also supportive of the move.
By becoming permanent member, Pakistan would be able to play more effective role in the development of trade and peace in the region, as it would have continuous interaction with the member countries. In last year’s summit, formal meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister after a long hiatus was a welcome move. Both leaders agreed that way forward for lasting peace is to address outstanding issues including Kashmir, Siachen, and Sir Creek, though details had not been given in joint statement. Meeting between them had been welcomed by the US and other countries of the world. Of course, SCO forum provided platform whereby both countries agreed to talk. Coming back to SCO, it has to be mentioned that after 14 years after it was established, the SCO is graduating beyond its original mandate of dealing with security threats.
There are four factors that create an enabling context for SCO’s growth as a powerful Asian organisation. For one, it will further strengthen the Sino-Russian ties, which will give special momentum to the SCO. China and Russia believe that they should strengthen support and strategic coordination when the international and regional situation is becoming increasingly complex. The volume of bilateral trade has been growing at a phenomenal rate, and has been consistent for years. Two, what gives special momentum to the SCO’s growth is the energy that political commitment of the top leaderships of China and Russia bring to the organization. The fact remains that SCO has been driven by these two major powers. Thirdly, Russia too is emerging as a major economic power like China. Four, they want to see that the US does not have military presence in the Central Asian republics.
Of course, the US would not be happy to see an emerging SCO to transform the region, as the latter’s objective is to counter the US influence in the region. On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was in China. Both he and his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping promised ever-closer cooperation, as the two countries deepen ties in the face of growing tensions with the West. In what was Putin’s fourth trip to China since Xi Jinping became President in 2013, the two men stressed their shared outlook on trade, investment and geopolitical interests. “Russia and China stick to points of view which are very close to each other or are almost the same in the international arena,” Putin said. President Xi Jinping emphasised that this year marked the 15th anniversary of the China-Russia treaty of friendship and hoped the two countries might remain friends forever.
Xi said: “President Putin and I equally agree that when faced with international circumstances that are increasingly complex and changing, we must persist even harder in maintaining the spirit of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership and cooperation.” The two sides signed over 30 cooperation deals in areas such as trade, infrastructure, foreign affairs, technology and innovation, agriculture, finance, energy, sports and the media. Notably, Russian oil giant Rosneft inked a deal with China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) on developing a gas processing and petrochemical plant in East Siberia, as China seeks energy to boost its economic growth.
These developments show that that the world is on the verge of becoming bipolar or multipolar world, and both powers are poised to counter US machinations in Eastern European countries – former allied states of former USSR, and also its support to the states that are opposed to China’s claim of South China Sea.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.