The ceremony of raising flags of India and Pakistan, which became new full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at the Astana summit, was held at the SCO headquarters in Beijing on June 15, on the day of the 16th anniversary of the SCO founding. The flag of India was located between the flags of the SCO and Kazakhstan, and the flag of Pakistan was between the flags of Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
Becoming a new “G8” the Shanghai Cooperation Organization now has four nuclear powers and two of the world’s largest economies, forming a quarter of the world’s GDP and uniting almost half of the world’s population.
According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, this will make the organization even more influential, not only within Eurasia, but also in the international arena.
“The expansion of the SCO will undoubtedly contribute to ensuring that it will become more powerful and influential in the political, economic and humanitarian spheres,” Russian President said at the SCO leaders’ meeting in Astana on Friday, June 9.
Fight against terrorism and the situation in the Middle East was also one of the main issues on the agenda of the summit – its participants signed the Convention on Countering Extremism.
“The underground groups of ISIS members have been created in the SCO member states; this was shown by the investigation of the terrorist attack in St Petersburg. As far as we know, ISIS is plotting to destabilize Central Asia and Russia’s southern regions, so we need to improve the interaction between security agencies of the SCO states, including regional counterterrorism structures,” Vladimir Putin said.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed that Russia is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, especially in Syria.
“We all know this. I think this is the right call to support our common work on combating terrorism, especially in Afghanistan. We alone should not get face to face with this threat endangering the whole Central Asia,” he said.
In turn, Chinese leader Xi Jinping paid special attention to the significant economic potential of the SCO countries, noting the importance of the Silk Road project, which implies new transport corridors between Asia and Europe.
“We call for simplifying trade procedures between our countries step by step. We support the development of a coordinated road connectivity program. In addition, we propose to create a union of think tanks for the economy and a business association for e-commerce,” the PRC leader said.
At the summit, the SCO leaders adopted the Astana Declaration, which reflects the consolidated approaches of the member states to the further development of the organization and agreed assessments on key international issues.
According to Ilgar Velizade, Head of the Baku-based South Caucasus Club of Political Scientists, the main result of the meeting was the demonstration of different states’ readiness to move in one direction, starting from their own current interests.
“There is a desire to intensify cooperation on such important issues as the creation of a unified system of transport communications, development of common mechanisms for cargo transportation, coordination of activities to combat terrorism. Of course, declarative statements and their practical implementation are not the same, but there is a desire of the states to work together, involve expert groups, carry out coordinated work at the level of departments to achieve the goals,” the expert told PenzaNews.
In his opinion, the most practical statement made during the summit was the proposal to simplify trade procedures between the SCO members.
“It is difficult to say which statements were of the most importance, but the most practical one was the proposal to sign an agreement on trade facilitation within the framework of the formation of institutions for regional economic cooperation,” he said.
Meanwhile, from his point of view, the inclusion of such major geopolitical and geo-economic players as India and Pakistan into the SCO will help to change the format of cooperation.
“They often point out to the figures showing that accession of India and Pakistan will increase the population of people in the SCO to 43-44% of the world’s figures, their GDP will reach about 33 trillion dollars. The organization is transformed from the regional into a trans-regional one and can function to solve a much larger number of problems, including international ones,” Ilgar Velizade said.
In turn, Taisiya Marmontova, the head of the service for analysis and monitoring of the sphere of interethnic relations at RSI Kogamdyk Kelisim under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, reminded that the Kazakhstan SCO presidency was associated with several primary tasks.
“The main priorities of Kazakhstan’s presidency are strengthening of regional security, development of economic cooperation, disclosure of transit and transport potential, deepening of cultural and humanitarian ties in the context of implementing the SCO Development Strategy until 2025,” the expert said.
At the same time, in her opinion, acceptance of India and Pakistan into the organization is a quite contradictory fact.
“On the one hand, their joining the ‘Big Six’ will increase the world authority of the organization: there will be over 40% of the total population of the Earth in the SCO. On the other hand, there are fears that the contradictions between India and Pakistan will exacerbate the problems that already exist in the SCO. In particular, this is the unresolved issues related to the economic component of interaction,” Taisiya Marmontova explained.
Meanwhile, Ruslan Izimov, the head of the Eurasian Studies Program of the Institute of World Economy and Policy (IWEP) under the Foundation of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – the Leader of the Nation, called the entry of India and Pakistan into the SCO one of the main outcomes of the summit.
“This process was not easy and lasted for several years. Finally, it has come to an end and this opens a completely new stage in the SCO activity,” the analyst said, stressing that this event was worth a lot of diplomatic efforts from Kazakhstan during its SCO presidency.
Moreover, in his opinion, the most important agreements signed at the summit were the Convention on Countering Extremism and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“Recently, international terrorism and extremism has become the most acute global problem. The fight against this ‘social evil’ unites the efforts of many international actors,” Ruslan Izimov stressed.
According to him, the main threat for the Central Asian region and all the SCO countries is posed from the territory of Afghanistan.
“Inclusion of India and Pakistan allows to practically ‘surround’ Afghanistan from all sides, which will contribute to a more effective fight against the spread of terrorism and extremism,” the expert said.
However, analyzing the prospects for the future SCO countries relations, he pointed out some possible difficulties.
“As for the future prospects, the situation is ambiguous. Much will depend on preserving the principle of consensus and the so-called ‘Shanghai spirit’, which for many years allowed all SCO members to find a common vision and common ground. It is important to emphasize that the inclusion of new participants into the SCO opens up a number of new opportunities for the countries. In particular, it would be more correct for Kazakhstan and other countries of Central Asia to think about how to use the emerging situation in their own interests,” the expert said.
Meanwhile, in his opinion, Central Asian countries fall under the serious economic influence of China, and it is necessary for them to diversify their export routes, sources of investment and a list of key economic partners.
According to Ruslan Izimov, in this context, India, with its potential and minimal political interests in the region, would be ideally suited for the role of a balancer.
In turn, Vadim Kozulin, Deputy Chairman of the Eurasian Commission for Foreign Affairs and Economic Policy, (EECO), stressed that at the end of the summit the SCO has acquired a global scale, “uniting half of the world.”
“Moreover, the organization united that part of the world, where today the main political and economic changes are taking place. According to some observers, this is a ‘club for meetings and conversations’ without rigid decision-making mechanisms. But is it too bad? Today, the world lacks precisely this thing – dialogue and mutual understanding. The SCO has created such a platform, and now it has become much broader. And this is why the organization is very important,” the expert said.
At the same time, he reminded that the new members of the organization have difficult bilateral relations.
“The SCO is getting more problems, but international organizations exist to address them. The format of the SCO perfectly suits it – it is not worse than, for example, the G7. When there is a real common problem, the SCO can create tools for a collective response,” Vadim Kozulin said.
He also stressed that India and Pakistan, which joined the SCO, are very familiar with the problem of terrorism.
“The antiterrorist center works very effectively in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Exchange of information and joint operations will now become much more effective. I think that a significant event has happened in the world, the value of which we will be able to estimate only in the future,” the analyst concluded.
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