THE 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit was held in Ufa, Russia on 9-10 July 2015. The summit was unique in many ways. Firstly, for the first time in the 15 years of the SCO, it was decided to increase the number of its members. The summit marked the commencement of the official process for Pakistan and India’s inclusion in the SCO as a full member. Secondly the summit was held along with BRICS summit under one roof where leaders of 15 countries assembled from various continents. Thirdly, in addition to the expansion of SCO, some other very important decisions were taken at the summit. Some important decisions included : passing of SCO Development Strategy 2025, approval of three years (2016-2018) programme of cooperation to fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism, upgrading the status Belarus from dialogue partner to the status of observer and taking in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal as new dialogue partners.
As per its charter SCO is striving to achieve its objectives of strengthening mutual trust and good-neighborliness and friendship among member states. It is facilitating member states in developing their effective cooperation in political affairs, the economy and trade, science and technology, culture, education, energy, transportation, environmental protection and other fields; working together to maintain regional peace, security and stability; and promoting the creation of a new international political and economic order based on equality and justice.
The major outcome of 15th SCO summit was SCO member states’ decision to expand the membership for Pakistan and India. SCO leaders passed on July 10, 2015 on starting the procedures of granting India and Pakistan full membership of the organization. Entry of Pakistan and India in the SCO as full members would be a watershed move for the SCO.Once admitted as a member, Pakistan would contribute significantly as a constructive partner in the work of the organization. Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed the SCO expansion and called on the member states to uphold the “Shanghai Spirit” for common development. He hoped that admitting new nations to the SCO would inject fresh impetus into the organization’s all-ranging cooperation. The SCO Development Strategy until 2025 approved in the summit at the summit, outlines priorities in all major areas of cooperation – from creating conditions to boost collaboration in trade and the economy to ensuring regional stability and prompt responses to conflicts and crises. It also covered development of transport and infrastructure, energy, agriculture, finance, education, information and communication technology, innovation and environment Initially there was an impression that SCO may not be able to play any significant role in Afghanistan due to its economic limitation and greater emphasis on bilateral engagements with Afghanistan of the member states. But the SCO has been quite active on Afghanistan; it held its first Afghanistan conference in 2009 to which EU and NATO were invited. The 2009 NATO Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council Security Forum was attended by the Secretary General of the SCO. In Ufa the agenda item on regional security included Afghanistan. With the withdrawal of the US and NATO troops, the relevance of the SCO for Afghanistan has been increased.
According to Ufa Declaration, SCO had an in-depth discussion of the situation in Afghanistan. It was noted that Islamic State (IS) had stepped up its activities and spread its tentacles to that country, which elevates the security threats on the southern borders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It was decided to immediately work out anti-terrorism plan on Afghan borders. The summit noted that drug money was a major source of funding for radical terrorist groups; therefore, the SCO members had outlined plans to counter the drug threat. The newly adopted Border Cooperation Agreement was designed to curb drug trafficking as well. The SCO presidency will go to Uzbekistan from July 11, 2015
The sidelines bilateral meetings provided an excellent opportunity to heads of 15 states to exchange ideas on matters of their mutual interests. The participation of Pakistan was quite visible and impressive. Pakistani delegation headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presented Pakistan’s perspective very effectively. Further Pakistan’s bilateral meetings with Afghanistan, Russia, China and India were of great importance. With the initiation of the official process for Pakistan’s inclusion in the SCO as a full member, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should formulate a strategy to enhance Pakistan’s engagement with its counterparts to ensure the timely completion of all formalities for the membership process.
Published by Pakistan Observer on July 22, 2015
Link of the Article: http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=268584
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