Dr Muhammad Khan
WITH the full membership status to Pakistan and India in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the organization will become world’s largest forum after United Nations Organization. Besides, it will have its footprints in South Asia for the first time, ever since its origin in 1996 as Shanghai Five. There are many speculations that, with the membership of Pakistan and India in the forum, there may create an element of split in the organization.
However, as per Lin Minwang, a Professor in the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University, “SCO is not a place for India and Pakistan to quarrel, but a platform for members to settle their disputes.” ‘The Global Times’ further clarified the misperception associated with Indo-Pak membership. Li Wei, an anti-terror expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said, “There is some concern that the hostility between India and Pakistan might affect the organization’s unity. However, the SCO will also become an ideal platform for members with disputes to solve their problems bilaterally based on the Shanghai Spirit.”
It was the historical Ufa Summit of SCO, held on July 10, 2015, which formally initiated the expansion plan for membership of this organization. Prior to 2001, it had only five members. In 2001, with the inclusion of Uzbekistan as full member, its membership rose to six and it was renamed as Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) from its original nomenclature of Shanghai Five. With the inclusion of Pakistan and India as new members of SCO, the number of member countries has risen to eight. There is strong hope that Iran may be admitted in the organization in the next sessions of SCO.
The expansion of SCO has regional and global implications. Regionally, two important South Asian countries have been housed in the organization as full members; a step forward for the regional integration process of the Asia and Eurasia. Globally, Russia and China has given a clear indication to present a joint disagreement against the current unipolar world order, where US is the sole super power. Besides SCO, in the Ufa moot of BRICS-2015, it was clearly hinted that, there would be Silk World Order in the coming decade. One Belt One Road idea of the China is in fact gained currency thereafter. Seventh BRICS summit at Ufa, indeed, gave a clear roadmap for the Eurasian Century and Silk World Order. This includes “everything from a transcontinental mega railroad network connecting the Iberian Peninsula to the South China Sea and to what has been dubbed as the modern city of the Eurasian continent in Belarus.”
It is expected that with the expansion process of SCO ‘from South and Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the reaction capability of the organization will enhance. It will be able to ‘modern threats and challenges and to find regional solutions to regional problems.’ Besides, its political and economic potential will be significantly improved. At the level of South Asia, it is a well-coming step that Pakistan and India have will have full membership of SCO. Their entry into the organization will pave way for improvement in their bilateral relationship. This aspect has been even supported by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping, who said that, “India and Pakistan’s admission to the SCO will play an important role in the SCO’s development and it will play a constructive role in pushing for the improvement of their bilateral relations.”
The Astana Summit of SCO, June 8, 2017 will, take ‘concrete steps to further improve SCO’s functioning, develop cooperation in all priority areas, in security, counter-terrorism, the economy and humanitarian affairs. The traditional exchange of views on the most crucial regional issues, primarily, of course, Afghanistan and the Middle East.’ It is an excellent opportunity for Pakistan to exploit its sacrifices against global terrorism. Since China and Russia have soft corner for Pakistan, therefore, Pakistan stands at a higher pedestal compare to India. The expression and body language of leadership will make the real difference. Let us not forget the human rights issues in IOK.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.
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Dr Muhammad Khan