SCO Qingdao Summit: A vision from Argentina
By Paulo Botta
There are certain events that remain almost unnoticed by the media in Argentina due to its continuing Eurocentric approach. Consider a meeting of a select group that includes four nuclear weapon states. Can we agree that we should see it as important? Because that describes the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit that will take place in the city of Qingdao in China this week.
Chinese armored vehicles move forwards the target during the "Peace Mission 2007" anti-terror drill involving member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Chelyabinsk of Russia, Aug. 17, 2007. The 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit is scheduled for June 9 to 10 in Qingdao, a coastal city in east China's Shandong Province. [Photo: Xinhua]
The SCO members include China, Russia, India, and Pakistan - all of them nuclear states, which means the SCO has more nuclear states than NATO (United States, United Kingdom, and France). This alone should justify a closer look at the summitby our region.
Besides its importance from the point of view of international security, there are economic reasons to follow the meeting of the SCO. Argentina will hold the presidency of the G-20 this year, an important multilateral forum that includes three member states of the SCO – Russia, China, and India.
There are two issues related to the SCO summit that would be important from the Argentinean point of view. The first is related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal, and the decision by the United States to withdraw from it. It is a priority to follow the reactions of the SCO members to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal, since non-proliferation is a key issue on Argentina’s foreign policy agenda. The international community is working towards the Non-Proliferation Treaty 2020 Review Conference, and Argentinean Ambassador Rafael Grossi is one of the candidates to become president of the conference. Argentina developed a peaceful nuclear industry, and it is very active in non-proliferation work.
Since it was signed into forcein July 2015, the Iran nuclear deal is, no doubt, the most comprehensive agreement regarding inspections to control proliferation activities by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Two members of the SCO, China and Russia, are signatories to the deal, and their reactions to this issue at the SCO would be of great interest for Argentina.
According to some sources, Tehran will continue trying, as it did for almost a decade, to upgrade its membership of the SCO from observer to full member. Before the nuclear deal was signed, that was impossible; now that the deal has been dumped by the United States it is uncomfortable. Nevertheless, we can be sure that Chinese, Russian, and Indian companies will continue to do business in Iran and, in some cases, their trade relationship will even grow.
The Iran nuclear deal therefore appears to give the SCO a political opportunity to improve its diplomatic position through its direct contact with countries involved in this issue, namely Iran but also Israel, which has applied for Dialogue Partner status.
The case of Iran, and the future of the nuclear deal, will speak volumes about the position of SCO member countries regarding non-proliferation, and also about the role of the SCO itself in international politics. And both justify greaterinterest in the summit from our media.
A second issue for the Qingdao summit that would be relevant for Argentina is the future of the Belt and Road Initiative, which will be discussed by the SCO member states. When Argentina and Chile were invited to participate in last year’s Belt and RoadForum in China, it became relevant to Argentinean decision makers to focus on the opportunities attached to the initiative. Combined with the growing importance of the Pacific Ocean as a major international trade route and the economic relations established during the last decade between Argentina and China, the Belt and Road Initiative could open many opportunities for Argentinean companies to participate in the infrastructure projects associated with the initiative.
The Belt and Road Initiative also represents a challenge for Argentina to develop new economic relations in an area with many potential opportunities, as was recognized by President Macri during the Belt and Road Forum. Those infrastructure projects could become milestones in the building of a polycentric and increasingly connected world. And President Xi Jinping, who is both China’s president and current president of the SCO, will attend the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in November, which will be the most important diplomatic event for Argentina in our recent history. Put simply, the Qingdao summit deserves closer attention from Argentina. It is not ‘just a regional meeting’far from our areas of interest.
(Paulo Botta is an Argentina-based expert on Eurasian affairs)