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SCO: Regional Security Dynamics and World Power Politics

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

The annual Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit 2012 was held in Beijing, China. Heads of the states rigorously reviewed the regional security issues and emerging movers & shakers elements in world power politics. China the 2nd largest economy of the world hosted the summit for the third time since its inception. It played remarkable role in the formation and rampant growth of the SCO as a reliable socio-economic platform and viable security center for the future.

Pakistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Afghanistan are the observer states of the SCO. Belarus and Sri Lanka became SCO dialogue partners in 2010. The strategic expansion of the SCO if realizes fully would provide alternative to existing sinking world order led by US. Active participation of the United Nations, the CIS, the Eurasian Economic Community and the Collective Security Treaty Organization endorsed the paramount geo-political, socio-economic and geo-strategic importance of the SCO in the region and even at international levels. It is indeed a giant step towards achieving multi-polar world, free from using power to settle disputes, free from any aggression to replace regimes, and of course free from blocking socio-economic prosperity of other states around the globe.

The looming crises in the Middle East (Syria, Libya, Sudan), the expected withdrawal of ISAF from Afghanistan and the growing number of emerging dangerous trends in different regions, all calls for the intensification of the SCO efforts to strengthen regional security.

Joint Declaration

All leaders agreed to build a region with lasting peace and common prosperity as the defined by the core policy guidelines. It shows the importance of collectivism and co-existence policies of the SCO states against any discrimination or exploitation within the framework of this organization.

They all urged and supported the building of a world free of nuclear weapons and in strict compliance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It upholds non aggression philosophy of the SCO states and commends the propaganda of the Western media.

They call on all nuclear weapon states to sign the relevant protocols to the Treaty on a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in Central Asia and take real steps to move forward the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone in Central Asia. Usage of nuclear power produced havocs and ashes of Nagasaki and Hiroshima verifies its guilt towards naked humanity. It is indeed a great practical step towards achieving regional and global durable peace for our next generations to come. All the states supported Russian principle policy stance on the issue unilateral and unrestricted build-up of missile defense by an individual country or a country bloc will endanger international security and strategic stability. They demanded that relevant issues must be resolved by all the countries concerned through political and diplomatic efforts. Europe is at its crucial juncture any escalation would be disastrous.

They expressed their displeasure about the USA led NATO’s European missile defense system because they v believed that no country should pursue its own security at the expense of other countries’ security.

It was unanimously decided to revise the SCO Regulations on Political and Diplomatic Measures and Mechanisms of Response to Events Jeopardizing Regional Peace, Security and Stability in order to enhance joint early warning, crisis management, interaction and interoperability capability. All the states with the framework of the SCO valued their national sovereignty and territorial integrity and they do not want to leave it to others to intervene.

The leaders approved the program of fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism for 2013-2015 that specified plans to counter the activities of these “three forces” in the region. Terrorism, separatism and extremism are three evils which should be eradicated from the region for stability and sustainability.

The SCO member states agreed to make the organization an effective instrument of regional security in order to combat with terrorism, separatism and extremism as well as other transnational crimes on the rise.

They agreed to expedite the concept/program of mutual disaster relief assistance. The countries will communicate in a timely manner in case of emergency, send rescue teams, provide relief supplies and minimize the impact of disasters.

The establishment of the SCO development bank and special account to advance regional economic development was an important part of economic agenda. Gradual transition to national currencies settlements and financing joint projects is a great step forward on the way to gradual economic integration. The member states agreed to enhance cooperation in transportation, energy, telecommunications and agriculture. They also believe it is necessary to promote cultural and educational exchanges and expand people-to-people contacts and social interaction.

Chinese President

Mid Term Development Strategy

The SCO summit 2012 under the wise leadership of China framed the “mid-term development strategy”. The main objective is to “build the SCO as a practical and highly effective platform for cooperation”. It is the first time that the SCO has come up with a comprehensive policy plan of long-term cooperation in tackling strategic issues.

It outlines expanding the mandate of the SCO and its membership. Membership expansion will be done on a consensual basis and based on the results of road map fulfillment. In the immediate future the process is to be limited to bringing in a few observers and dialogue partners. It granted Afghanistan an observer status and made Turkey a dialogue partner. Sri Lanka and Belarus were taken in as dialogue partners in 2010. The summit welcomed the proposed accession of India and Pakistan to the security grouping, but no timetable was set to grant them full membership.

Regional Security Dynamics and World Power Politics

The SCO summit 2012 emphasized the member states to hold regular meetings of defense chiefs. The SCO states have already held eight large scale anti-terrorist drills, five security forums and have made personnel exchanges and joint training a routine matter. The SCO training activities have evolved from company level tactical training events to large scale joint combined exercises over the last decade.

The SCO states account for 60 percent of the land mass of Eurasia. Its population is a third of the world. According to global energy survey (2008), the SCO states hold roughly 21.4 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and 45 percent of the world’s proven natural gas reserves.

The investments between member states surged to $15 billion, covering oil and gas explorations, transportation, telecommunications, chemicals and agriculture. In line with a bilateral agreement on the oil and gas sector signed in May 2004, Kazakhstan and China has constructed a 962.2 kilometres gas pipeline running trough Atasu (Kazakhstan)-Alashonkon (China), with a pumping capacity of 10 million tonnes of oil. Investment in the project totalled at $700 million. Uzbekistan sells gas to Russia and China on the basis of bilateral accords, and recently welcomed an increased investment from Russian sources over the next five years.

Following are given the important geo-political and geo-strategic grey areas which would be fatal for the expansion and further integration of the SCO in the long run.

(a) Afghanistan

China being the most influential states of the SCO along with others especially Uzbekistan has been advocating the regional solutions for the regional problems including the most vulnerable Afghanistan security issue. Time and again, the Chinese leadership termed the stability of Afghanistan as one of the important factors in bringing peace and prosperity in the region.

Uzbekistan being the largest country of the CIS having lots of natural resources floated the workable formula i.e. for seeking peace in tumultuous soil of Afghanistan. It projected the establishment of the “6+3” Contact Group under UN auspices, comprising the duly authorized representatives of states bordering Afghanistan, as well as the representatives of Russia, USA and NATO would serve for the earliest possible solution of the Afghan problem. Uzbekistan also suggested forming a consultative and diplomatic body to secure the best interest of Afghanistan.

The member states supported Afghanistan’s effort to build an independent, neutral, peaceful, prosperous country free of terrorism and drug-related crimes. They are of the view that the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

(b) NATO expected pullout

Moreover, giving observer status to Afghanistan clearly reflects the SCO strategic concerns and fears of uncertainty to grip the country following the NATO pullout. All the neighbouring countries including Pakistan are very worried about the spillover repercussions of it in the near future. Frequent infiltration from Afghan border into Pakistan is making bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan more vulnerable these days.

China has been advocating bigger role for the regional and especially SCO in Afghanistan. China’s investments and joint ventures in Afghanistan is making rapid progress. Chinese President Hu Jintao has said “We will continue to manage regional affairs by ourselves, guarding against shocks from turbulence outside the region, and play a bigger role in Afghanistan”.

(c) US policy to encircling China

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi with Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar

USA has been doing its great to block the Chinese marathon socio-economic growth and strategic expansion in the region and around the globe. Most recently, USA has increased its naval strength in the region in order to stop China’s East Asia naval march. Its disguised economic diplomacy drives/missions to Vietnam, Myanmar, South Korea, Japan and the last but not the least Australia is nothing but an effort of encircling China. US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta visits to Central Asian countries and of course, India is another effort to block China’s strategic expansion in the CIS and Asia. All by means, USA does not want any military role of China in the Western Pacific region, East Asia, Indian Ocean and South Asia in the future. So, active role of SCO is highly appreciated to keep USA at bay. On the contrary, China has had been using economic cooperation to defuse the US strategy of encircling China. It has had been granting loans, professional training, and similar measures to struggling economies. China does not have any military ambitions.

(d) Energy geo-politics

Energy is the symbol of socio-economic growth. Energy is the engine of geo-political and geo-strategic superiority around the globe. Politics of pipelines are getting heat in the world. Mega projects of oil and gas pipelines are being carried forward in the region and the SCO.

Pakistan being an energy deficient country is seeking the help from the CIS in shape of TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India). On the other hand, China has developed an extensive energy network linking the country with Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Russia and Qatar through 7 pipelines and 11 LNG terminals. SCO can be used to work on the two pronged option of linking Turkmenistan gas pipeline to Pakistan and India through China. It can help link oil rich Gulf States with Asia through Pakistan. So, Pakistan’s geo-strategic significance is obvious.

Furthermore, gas reserves of Russia, Central Asian states, and Iran make up 50 per cent of world reserves. Although the energy club has not been formed, energy production and consumption patterns along the lines of assisting others within SCO, have given member states enormous power to yield economic benefits.

(e) US return to Asia Policy

Signals are loud and clear that the SCO states are worried about the US return to Asia policy despite all the mess and fuss created in Afghanistan and Iraq. To counter this China and Russia conducted the joint naval exercise Sea Cooperation 2012 in the Yellow Sea, following four bilateral military exercises since 2005. The training team up involved several simulated missions, including the rescue of a hijacked ship, the escort of a commercial vessel and the defense of a sea convoy against air and sea attacks. The exercise demonstrated the will of the two leading SCO members to strengthen the capability to jointly confront new regional threats. The timing of the Sea Cooperation by and large coincided with the joint exercises launched by the U.S. and Philippine military in the South China Sea.

(f) Declining Socio-Economic Volumes

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari attended the SCO 2012 and stressed the need to have an increased economic activity which would help its member countries to overcome their economic weaknesses. According to data from the Ministry of Commerce, the total trade volume of SCO member states reached 4.65 trillion U.S. dollars in 2011, an increase of 25.1 percent year on year.

Moreover, according to IMF (2011) China’s trade with other SCO member states increased from 12.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2001 to 113.4 billion dollars in 2011. China has become Russia’s largest trading partner, as well as the second largest trading partner of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It showed that the total GDP volume of all six SCO members reached 9.39 trillion dollars in 2010 despite the impact of the global financial crisis. In 2001, the year the SCO was established, the figure was 1.67 trillion dollars. So, economic importance of the SCO is crystal clear.

(g) Iran alleged nuclear program

The SCO states expressed deep concern over the situation in western Asia and northern Africa. They sincerely hoped to see peace, stability, prosperity and progress in this region. They called on the international community to respect the purposes of the UN Charter and norms of the international law, respect the independent choice of the countries and peoples in the region, and work to ease tensions. They opposed armed intervention or forced “regime change” and disapprove of unilateral sanctions.

The SCO states showed deep concern over the developments surrounding Iran, an observer state. They regarded any attempt to resolve the Iranian issue by force as unacceptable as such attempts would produce unpredictable and serious consequences threatening stability and security of the region and even the world. They called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid remarks or actions which might further escalate confrontation. The SCO supported the 5+1 formula on Iran to find a political and diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and talks between relevant parties

(h) Syria and Middle East

The SCO states strongly opposed to unilateral actions in the Middle East. The summit’s statement on Syria also calls for a “peaceful resolution of the Syrian problem through political dialogue. The member states underlined that all acts of violence inside Syria must stop. They supported broad based domestic dialogue that respects Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. They welcome the UN Security Council’s support for political mediation efforts in solving the crisis and believe that a peaceful solution to the Syrian issue through political dialogue serves the common interests of the Syrian people and the international community.

China and Russia are keen to avoid a duplication of the Libyan scenario in Syria, and have therefore blocked two Security Council resolutions calling for sanctions against the Syrian government.

Concluding Remarks

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has come of the age and recently held annual summit in Beijing, China has proved its maturity. It is a symbolic divergence from US-led world towards multi-polar. It is a hope to lots of emerging economies in the world. It is a platform of human prosperity, inter-faith harmony and above all socio-economic integration. It is indeed a giant security mechanism to fight against three evils.
It provides a collective will to minimize any foreign interference in the region and put an end to so called great end game. It reflects the collective wisdom of its people to excel beyond other expectations and do wonders. It stands for regional solutions for the regional problems. Last but not the least it may be the last resort for ongoing European debt crisis.
By speeding up regional economic cooperation, the SCO would be hub of foreign direct investments, tourism, joint ventures and above all job creation in the days to come. Hot pursuits of energy resources have already burnt the soul of humanity which could be repaired by building regional energy club within the framework of the SCO.
Hopefully, China’s successful economic diplomacy, Russia military clout and naturally blessed countries like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran would further strengthen the socio-economic leverage, geo-political maneuvering and geo-strategic dominance of the SCO in the region and at international stage of power politics where heads are not counted but veto matters.

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