Baber Ali Bhatti
FOR the peace and harmony of Asia, China and Russia with their four central Asian Partners extended their arms and accepted India and Pakistan as the members of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). It was the 17th SCO summit that marked the entry of two major countries. Both countries pledged to adhere to SCO Charter that calls for security cooperation and fight against terrorism and violent extremism, besides envisaging multiple spheres of cooperation. Primary goals of SCO’s are: making joint efforts to ensure peace and stability in the region; strengthening neighbourliness among its member states and promoting cooperation in different areas including politics, trade, economy, culture, research, technology, tourism and environmental protection.
SCO was also aimed to check the western interventions in heartland of Asia and curb the rise of militancy of all kinds. Some western analyst tagged the establishment of SCO as a counter-balance set-up for NATO. This perception was vitalized owing to doable position of Russia and China that they would not allow United State to intervene in the bordering areas by any means. SCO is also labelled as China oriented SCO. All in all, SCO is viable and influential forum in the region. With the SCO, India may aspire to join a key international high-table where it can bring forth matters of its concern, such as terrorism and trade.
Economic development has been prioritised by India and SCO can pave the way to achieve the economic objectives in shorter time. Besides, it will also provide better access to the central Asian region which is still untapped when it comes to minerals and coals. On the other hand, Pakistan may try and make it another forum to improve its reputation. Moreover, Pakistan can secure various gains on this table with the better operationalisation of CPEC. There is much more to be achieved at this forum for all member states.
However, there are certain reservations and observations when it comes to draw the future picture of SCO with inclusion of Pakistan and especially India. China is continued to engine the economic ventures with the support of Russia and other member states. In case, economic linkages among member compounds, China will be primary beneficiary of that linkage. Beijing is already following the well calculated strategies for its economic growth especially with Belt and Road plans in which all member states are encompassed with the exception of India.
India recently went through border skirmish with China which further strained the relations. China beefed up the boots near border as pre-emptive measures whereas India made the major deployment for its preparedness. Furthermore, China’s spokesperson also signalled that regional countries should not linger for alliances to strain the regional environment with reference to Indo-Japan relationship. Sino-Indian strained ties may lure India to employ hostile stuff against China regardless of the fact that China has utmost influence over SCO.
On the other hand, from the last few years, India is utilising its influence and has activated its lobby in Washington to further undermine the fragile Pak-US ties by painting Pakistan as sheltering the militants. At a time, Indian planners are employing their moves discreetly to enshroud the on-going terror campaign with utmost cooperation of Afghan intelligence. India is likely to retain its manoeuvring against Pakistan by instrumental use of SCO.
India must revisit its policies and should not use this forum to focus on the bilateral disputes. Previously, India twisted the small neighbours’ arms shamelessly to torpedo the SAARC summit which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan in last year. India should not repeat such episodes for smaller gains. Instead SCO should be utilised for regional gains and mitigate the animosity. Lately included members have deeply rooted hostilities. China is also seen as hostile state by India. Therefore, it might be challenging for SCO to manage the affairs of such two-pronged hostile triangle. However, both India and Pakistan need to contemplate about their commitment to the objectives and goals of the SCO.
— The writer is associated with Strategic Vision Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.
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Baber Ali Bhatti