By Zamir Awan
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), established in China in 2001, is a political, economic and security organization that is Eurasian in nature. Its six original members, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, were joined by Pakistan and India at a 2017 summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The SCO also has four observer states, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia, as well as six dialogue partners, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
The SCO holds an annual summit every year hosted by one of its members. This year it will be held in June in Qingdao, China.
The government of Pakistan values the SCO and is committed to participate actively. Pakistan will attend the June summit for the first time as a full member, and the president of Pakistan has consented to attend.
The SCO was very much looking forward to Pakistan becoming a full member. This Eurasian entity could never achieve its objectives of security and connectivity without the participation of Pakistan. Pakistan believes in regional cooperation and has always actively promoted regional peace, stability and development.
Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan was acknowledged by the world. It was an active player in regional cooperation and development along with Iran and Turkey.
Pakistan’s role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has always been lauded. It was also a major contributor of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
Pakistan always stands with the oppressed and condemns aggressors. It has taken all possible measures to normalize relations with India.
Pakistan is a major contributor to the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces and its role has been praised worldwide.
Pakistan’s most recent international involvement has been with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Pakistan is moving forward with its “Trade not Aid” policy and has been pushing for greater connectivity. Heavy investments have been carried out under the CPEC project to enhance connectivity, trade and multidimensional friendship.
Pakistan has successfully carried out anti-insurgency campaigns in its tribal areas, where terrorism-related incidents have been reduced tremendously.
We Pakistanis firmly believe that only cooperation can overcome the common challenges we face today
Pakistan believes that regional cooperation and connectivity will promote peace and economic development. This is especially so with the Central Asian states, with which Pakistan has strong historic bonds of culture, traditions, religion, trade and ethnicity, while sharing similar issues and problems. We Pakistanis firmly believe that only cooperation can overcome the common challenges we face today.
In terms of contributing to the SCO, Pakistan can offer its assistance in anti-terror mechanisms, as it has seen great success in overcoming terrorism in the past few years. Our experience may be shared with SCO states.
Pakistan will boost the economic activities of SCO member states. We already have common ground and there exists cooperation to some extent – the CPEC, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Pipeline, and the long-stalled Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.
Pakistan’s geo-strategic location is vital and crucial for connectivity and trade. It will shorten transportation distances, reduce transportation costs and save transportation time. Pakistan can also share its developmental experience under CPEC to assist the further construction of BRI projects in the SCO region.
Pakistan is already contributing a lot in terms of educational exchanges. The number of Pakistani students present in only one member state is far greater than the number of students from other member states in Pakistan combined. As English is an official language, Pakistan can contribute a lot to SCO member states in terms of education, science and technology, research and development, and innovations.
As for what Pakistan expects, it is a greater level of connectivity to realize its security and economic concerns. An increasing share in the Central Asian markets for Pakistani products would be a priority. Pakistan is particularly interested in a mechanism whereby it can engage with all countries of this region and focus on full-dimension development at faster pace.
As countries sharing the same neighborhood, we have common problems, and the solutions are interlinked with one another. Pakistan believes that sustainable development can be achieved only when your neighbors are prospering and satisfied. Pakistan expects the SCO to play a role in Afghanistan’s stability so that connectivity among SCO sates through Afghanistan can be availed.
It is expected that the SCO will expand further and may include more countries. New entrants may include Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia. All of these countries have very friendly relationships with Pakistan already.
The SCO covers more than half the world’s population, more than half of the world’s area, and has vast natural resources, yet its members suffer from the menaces of extremism, terrorism, drug trafficking and poverty. On the other hand, there also exists a huge potential for growth in this part of the world.
Pakistan is very optimistic regarding its future with the SCO. It is devoted to contributing wholeheartedly to the organization. Under the SCO platform, all member states will be taking advantage of the CPEC’s facilities, and this relationship will grow further in all dimensions. It is hoped that we will achieve our common goal of “peace, stability, connectivity, development and prosperity.”
Professor Zamir Ahmed Awan is a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Chinese Studies Center of Excellence, Islamabad, Pakistan. Posted to the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing as science counselor (technical affairs) from 2010-16, he was responsible for promoting cooperation between Pakistan and China in science, technology, and higher education.