By Sahibzada M. Saeed
Disintegration of Soviet Union in late 1980s had changed the bipolar world order. The collapse of USSR allowed USA to emerge as a sole hegemon. With the concept of democratic idealism, United States encouraged the democratic and liberal values across the globe and in results a complex and multifaceted phenomenon of globalization was initiated. Under the process of globalization, interaction among different nations in form of international trade, ideas and cultural exchange has flourished. So the intensification of crossnational cultural, economic, political, social and technological interactions led to the establishment of transnational structures. While, in the realm of economy protectionist and centrally controlled economies were opened up and got the form of unregulated or less regulated capitalist economies. Here it is important to mention that advancement in the modes of transportation and communication technology paved the way for globalization.
Parallel to it the concept of regional integration emerged and different intergovernmental organizations were come into being in different corners of the globe. These organizations were formed for cooperation in multiple fields including trade, economy, and security. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was one of them which has established on June 15, 2001 with the aim of promoting healthy relations among the member states and ensuring peace, security and stability in the region. SCO further emphasizes on strengthening mutual confidence and effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy, energy, transportation, tourism and culture.
Initially, SCO was comprised of six states i.e. China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In 2017, Pakistan and India also joined SCO. Along with its 8 members, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia are the observer states while Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey are its dialogue partners. In 2005 SCO has signed an MOU with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for economic and financial cooperation promotion of Tourism, environment and natural resources management, social development and energy cooperation.
Chinese Belt and Road project with its two main variants; 21st century maritime Silk Road and Silk Road Economic Belt gave a golden opportunity for Asian states to further enhance their socio-economic ties. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) provides a wide range of connectivity between different corners of Asia. The Largest population, industrial growth and excessive energy recourses make Asia a future hub of geo-economics and geopolitics. Cooperation among regional states under regional organizations like SCO, ASEAN, Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) can make integration more feasible and viable. For instance ASEAN states with huge industrial potential can be benefited from rich energy resources of Central Asian Republics which are member states of ECO and SCO. Similarly skilled labour force of South Asia and China can boost industrial growth at wider level.
Prime geopolitical location of Pakistan makes it a key player in the region and that is why China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is considered a flagship project of BRI. On one hand CPEC provides an opportunity to Pakistan to improve links with Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East and Europe while on the other hand it is an opportunity to link East Asian economies with energy rich Central Asian Republics through 21st century maritime Silk Road. Geostrategic location of Gwadar with its uniqueness of deep sea port on warm waters of Indian Ocean makes it a strategic gateway to the untapped world of North and Central Asia. Gwadar is a strategically ideal point on the main Indo-Pacific sea lane of communication from where 80% energy resources transit towards eastern hemisphere of the world.
Economic corridors have emerged globally as tools of regional cooperation and development. Intergovernmental forums in the region like SCO and ASEAN should provide joint platforms for member states to join connectivity projects like BRI to enhance further cooperation in the region to achieve larger development goals. Without the shadow of doubt, 21st century is known as the Asia’s century and Pakistan with its prime geo-economic location and huge economic potential is right in the middle of Asia which is indeed a gateway for Asia’s development. BRI is planned by Asians, it is launched in Asia and it will ultimately connect Asia from one corner to the other. So let’s connect Asia with BRI to connect the world with Asia.