The 12th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) in Beijing presented a new dawn of opportunities not only for Pakistan, but also for other Asian observer states, specially India. President Zardari was also present at the summit representing Pakistan.
During his speech he took no time to reveal his wish of Pakistan becoming a full member of the SCO and taking active participation in its activities.
Pakistani officials are upbeat about the summit as well as the reception President Zardari got during his stay. They called the summit and bilateral meetings as very useful and in the right direction as far as Pak endeavor for full membership of the organsiation is concerned. The acceptance of Turkey as dialogue partner, of Afghanistan as full observer, and of Sri Lanka as observer have also added strength to the organisation and it should augur well for it.
Few weeks back, Zardari’s wish received strong backing from the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, who stated that full membership of Pakistan and India in the SCO was in the larger interest of the organization.
Speaking on the occasion, Zardari said that his country’s membership would not only lead to better relations with the SCO states but would also help in eradicating common problems faced by the members. Furthermore, Mr. Zardari also announced that his government would hold an international conference on Narcotics involving the major stakeholder states as the issue is haunting the region for the past few years. He furthered stated that security and development, elimination of narcotics, choking funding for militancy, fighting insurgencies and development of the region remain the top priorities of SCO and that his country’s membership would further help the organization achieving these goals. He further called for greater collaboration in energy sector, through building more pipelines coupled with regional connectivity through air, road and rail links for enhancing cooperation.
Realizing the potential challenge faced by the region after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, SCO wants a greater say in the region’s proceedings as situation in Afghanistan affects, both directly and indirectly, the Central and East Asian region. “The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) should be involved in its peaceful reconstruction”, China’s President Hu Jintao said in Beijing pointing towards Afghanistan.
Though many critics are of the opinion that the SCO is yet to achieve substantial milestones and the body is only visible in annual meetings and summits, yet the presence of Russia and China lends the organisation substantial weight. Also, there is a lot of geo-political synergy among the SCO countries on most issues including drugs, terrorism and regional trade.
This summit of the SCO holds immense importance as the World political scene is witnessing major developments in Iran, Syria, Libya and Egypt. Though Libya and Egypt are facing the post regime change turbulence, the situation in the other two states is quite different.
USA, along with its Western Allies, wants Tehran to abandon its Nuclear programme whereas Syria is witnessing the most violent phase of its last year’s uprising and demands for an intervention are circuiting in the UN. Amidst this situation, Russia and China have clearly stated their position of being strongly against any sort of intervention in Syria whereas also supporting peaceful use of nuclear energy by Tehran.
Pakistan also seems to be catching the current tide of rising regional powers and pushing its case for the full membership of the SCO. The improving bilateral ties with Iran also come as a ray of hope for the current energy crisis in Pakistan as Tehran has committed to fund the gas pipeline for the country. China, on the other hand, a major global power, holds great interest in Pakistan through Gawadar port. That is why, a peaceful AfPak region is not only in favor of these countries, but also for the Central and Eastern Asian region.
With current tensions escalating between Washington and Islamabad, and continued suspension of NATO supply line resulting in greater pressure on Islamabad, Pakistan is looking for new regional partners and friends to reduce its dependency vis a vis Washington. SCO, in that regard, provides a golden opportunity. An opportunity, which Pakistan cannot afford to lose but it shall have to stay this course, regardless of what the USA or other NATO members think of it. Rather than securing and safeguarding USA-NATO interests, Pakistan needs to protect and promote its own security and economic interests by forging regional alliances and creating commercial linkages.
Together, all SCO member and non-member associates should also guard against attempts to undermine unity within the SCO.