SCO FM meeting promotes cooperation and interconnectivity
By Shafei Moiz Hali
The precursor of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was the Shanghai Five. It was established in 1996 and included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan joined the forum in 2001 and the Shanghai-5 became the SCO.
The SCO was created to boost cooperation in security, economy, education, politics, trade, research, technology, culture, energy, tourism, transport and environmental protection among the member countries. Over time, and especially after 9/11, the threat of terrorism emerged and became a major concern for SCO members.
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojidin Aslov, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, Secretary-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Rashid Alimov and director of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) Executive Committee Yevgeniy Sysoyev in Beijing, capital of China, April 23, 2018. The officials are in Beijing to attend the meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled for Tuesday. [Photo: Xinhua]
Last year, during the meeting in Astana, India and Pakistan were granted permanent member status within the SCO. The upcoming meeting in June, which is going to be hosted in Qingdao, will be the first of its kind after the membership expansion last year. The SCO now has China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan as full members.
In preparation for the upcoming June SCO Heads of State Council, the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers will convene in Beijing on Tuesday, April 24th 2018. Along with the foreign ministers of the member nations, SCO Secretary General Rashid Alimov and director of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) Executive Committee Yevgeniy Sysoyev will be there. The meeting will be chaired by Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Earlier in the year, Wang stated that, "We welcome the SCO back to China, and expect it to embark on a new journey in Qingdao." In order to streamline and bring everyone on the same page before the Qingdao SCO summit, the foreign ministers will put on their thinking caps and discuss the state and developments made after the June 7 – 10, 2017 SCO Heads of Government Council which took place in Astana, Kazakhstan.
During the meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers it is expected that the ministers will approve the draft of the Qingdao Declaration and will also agree upon a communiqué reflecting the organization's short-term approaches and goals. The participants of the meeting will also discuss measures to make the organization more cohesive, effective and influential.
It is true that the SCO is becoming a strong regional platform and more and more countries are exhibiting a desire to participate. Already the SCO has become the world's largest regional platform in terms of representation, especially after the inclusion of Pakistan, with the world's 6th largest population, and India, with the 2nd largest, as promoting regional connectivity is an important aspect of the SCO. It is expected that talks about promoting this aspect will be a significant area. Expressly, because China is making tremendous progress in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Nepal-India economic corridor (CNIEC), the 7th proposed corridor of the BRI will also gain traction.
The SCO has been busy recently, with new developments taking place. From April 9-10, 2018 in Xian, the 1st SCO People's Forum was launched, which was founded at the initiative of the Chinese NGO Association for International Exchanges. The plenary sessions in the programme focused on the activities of NGOs, and scientific research and education centers and other humanitarian organizations that play an active part in the social life of their countries.
A media training program was launched in Beijing earlier in April 2018, which aims to draw countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization closer. The inaugural media exchange program of the SCO branch of the China Center for International News Exchange was hosted by the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs and Beijing Foreign Studies University. It offers a 3 month training program interested and seasoned journalists. For the first program, 12 reporters from the five SCO member countries began training.
Most definitely the world of today is faced with many challenges; environmental, economic, security, stability and much more. The UN alone cannot tackle all these problems, which is why strong regional organizations like the SCO are the need of the hour to complement the efforts of the UN and to promote cooperation and stability. This is why the SCO is gaining prominence. But this also raises the bar of responsibility on China and other SCO members to fulfill the SCO's goals and aims of taking a clearer stand on major international and regional issues, and of playing a more active role in regional cooperation and global economic governance.
(Dr. Shafei Moiz Hali studied at George Mason University, Virginia, USA and specialized in the field of International Commerce and Policy. He did his PhD from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China specializing in Chinese foreign policy focusing on the Belt and Road Initiative and energy issues. Currently Dr. Hali is working as an Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Contemporary Studies, National Defence University (NDU) Islamabad, Pakistan.