Shanghai Cooperation Organization and what it can do for Eurasia

Mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and pursuit of common development

-SCO, Shanghai Spirit

The organization that aims to bind Eurasia in a single bead of economic, social and security straw. SCO was created out of the Shanghai Five, i.e. China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Tajikistan. The Shanghai Five were meeting on a yearly basis since 1996, to increase mutual trust and address security issues, when in the 2001 meeting, they admitted Uzbekistan as a member and laid the foundation for Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In 2002, the member states met at Saint Petersburg, Russia and adopted its charter, which comprises of the values aforementioned in the article.

Pakistan and India were initially admitted as observer states, but at the 2017 summit, both were accepted as permanent members. It also has given observer status to Iran and Afghanistan among other countries and has granted a temporary position to Turkey as well.

SCO comprises of countries which host three-fifth of Eurasia’s population and a significant portion of world population too. Since the conclusion of the 20th century Cold War and the end of history as proposed by Francis Fukuyama, the world leaders and international politics have moved on to newer conquests and different problems. USSR invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 must not have been thought out, because the domino effect of that war is still reverberating across Asia at a high frequency. Extremism, terrorism, border conflicts, black market, revolutionary movements in Asia, all these events can be traced back to the Soviet invasion and the consequent American involvement in the whole affair.

Coming back from the past, the SCO today holds a unique group of countries in a cooperation agreement. For instance, Pakistan and India, two hostile nations. Russia and China, both countries are being constantly chided by the West, especially the USA. Coming together of these states has been symbolized by the West as something of insignificant value because the SCO is only a platform to hide each other’s human rights violations in the name of respect for internal policies. Which, if looked upon carefully and regardless of its validity, the powers leading the United Nations have been doing for many decades now. So, the criticism is thrown at SCO, does not hold much weight.

But the problem that SCO does face is its limited scope and authority. It has its own joint counterterrorism force and conducts joint military exercises. Mutual trade agreements and comprehensive agreements like the Belt Road Initiative are also focused upon on the economic front. It gives a promising and holistic picture of the SCO. But the SCO does not wield enough power to enforce most of its decisions. Reason being, the member states have been dealing with a plethora of security issues for a long time. Pakistan has a hostile border on two fronts, China has its issues in the South China Sea, and Russia has the Ukraine problem. With the presence of such precarious foreign policy problems, an open organization whose aim is to boost regional stability does not have much room to spread its wings.

Regardless of the concerns about its functionality, it is still a practical platform, which can bear deliverable results, if manoeuvred in a diplomatically acute manner. For instance, Pakistan has been extending friendly overtures towards India for a long time now. Recent felicitations from PM Imran Khan for PM Modi for winning a second term is the latest example. Pakistan is also developing amicable relations with Russia and the CPEC between Pakistan and China has become the symbol of friendship between two countries.

These countries, under the name of SCO, can come together and devise the most suitable plan for solving the Afghan issue. Pakistan, India and China have a direct stake in it. Russia also has an interest in solving this decade long problem. Therefore, the SCO can take charge and extend its help to Afghanistan, which currently holds the status of an observer state.

This organization can achieve what the United States has been struggling to acquire for so long. A peaceful resolution for the people of Afghanistan. The SCO should not be undermined because it might be able to achieve what others could not. Because the member countries are physically attached to Afghanistan and being in such proximity, their understanding of the issue can have more depth. As compared to a country which only has its troops positioned there.

Asian countries have always struggled in making their voices heard at the international level. The power hegemony of Europe and the West renders their case irrelevant, even though almost three billion people reside in Asia alone. Since the end of the Second World War, global politics have been led by Europe and America and the theatre of all-important events has been Asia. For example, Afghanistan, Iranian revolutions, Indo-Pak wars, the Chinese revolution, Korean war, nuclear proliferation, the rise of Asian tigers, rapid industrialization and increase in poverty.

Asia has also been subject to “environmental racism” at the hands of the global north. Due to lax labour laws and a large portion of economies being informal, the developed world has been outsourcing the industrial production to China, India and other Asian countries. Now, this outsourcing has brought economic development to the region, but it has been done so at the cost of environmental degradation. And the environment protection and climate change sensitive policies of the global north are just a lip-service to this serious health and environment issue which the populace of Asia is facing.

The SCO can select any of the above-mentioned problems, and it will be able to create an impact for the betterment of its member countries. John J. Mearsheimer, an international relations expert, said that alliances in international politics are just temporary marriages of convenience. Even though the SCO can also become ephemeral and might become redundant one day; such pessimist thoughts should not prevent the members from taking groundbreaking steps and setting up new ventures today. After all, if Eurasia does not care for itself, who will?

Vyas Ali Rajput
About Vyas Ali Rajput 12 Articles
Vyas Ali Rajput is studying Public Administration at National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan

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