In mid-June, 2019, the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries have signed a joint declaration at their summit in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, and called for greater cooperation among member countries and reaffirming their intent to ensure security for their region. It was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, and the leaders of other SCO member states — Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan.
Ahead of the summit, Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov had said that talks would focus on expanding cooperation within the SCO on security, fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, economic development, industry, and humanitarian cooperation. Earlier at SCO summit, held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on 16–17 June 2004, the Regional Anti- terrorism Structure (RATS) was established, and in April 2006, the SCO announced plans to fight cross-border drug crimes under the counter-terrorism campaign.
The significant document on the issue was finalised in 2007, and the SCO signed an agreement with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), in the Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, to broaden cooperation on issues such as security, crime, and drug trafficking. The organisation is also redefining cyberwarfare, saying that the dissemination of information “harmful to the spiritual, moral and cultural spheres of other states” should be considered a “security threat”.
An accord adopted in 2009 also defined “information war”, in part, as an effort by a state to undermine another’s “political, economic, and social systems”. In a significant development the Diplomat reported in 2017 that SCO has foiled 600 terror plots and extradited 500 terrorists through RATS.
Definitional background of terrorism
Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses of people; or fear to achieve a religious or political aim. It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peace time or in context of war against non-combatants (mostly civilians and neutral military personnel).
The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” originated during the French Revolution of the late 18th century but gained mainstream popularity in the 1970s in news reports and books covering the conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and Palestine. The increased use of suicide attacks from the 1980s onwards was typified by the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001.
There are different definitions of terrorism. Terrorism is a charged term. It is often used with the connotation of something that is “morally wrong”. Governments and non-state groups use the term to abuse or denounce opposing groups. Varied political organizations have been accused of using terrorism to achieve their objectives. These organizations include right-wing and left-wingpolitical organizations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments.
Legislation declaring terrorism a crime has been adopted in many states. When terrorism is perpetrated by nation-states it is not considered terrorism by the state conducting it, making legality a largely grey-area issue. There is no consensus as to whether or not terrorism should be regarded as a war crime. The Global Terrorism Database, maintained by the University of Maryland, College Park, has recorded more than 61,000 incidents of non-state terrorism, resulting in at least 140,000 deaths between 2000 and 2014.
Developments at Bishkek
In the two-day summit India and other members of the SCO condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and called on the international community to promote cooperation in combating the menace.
According to the Bishkek Declaration of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Heads of State Council, the member states stressed that acts of terrorism and extremism cannot be justified.
Increasing challenges and security threats that are becoming cross-border in their nature like terrorism, spread of terrorist and extremist ideology including on the internet, returning foreign terrorists, proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction, the risk of an arms race among others need special attention, close coordination and constructive cooperation of the global community. The member states condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They call on the international community to promote global cooperation in combating terrorism with the central role of the UN by fully implementing corresponding UN Security Council resolutions and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in compliance with the UN Charter and the principles of international law without politicisation and double standards and with respect for the sovereignty and independence of all countries.
Resolutions for countering terrorism
The SCO member states urged the global community to work towards a consensus on adopting the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). Stressing that acts of terrorism and extremism cannot be justified, they believe it is important to take comprehensive measures to intensify efforts against terrorism and its ideology, as well as to determine and eliminate the factors and conditions that promote terrorism and extremism.
“They note that interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs under the pretext of fighting terrorism and extremism as well as using terrorist, extremist and radical groups to achieve one’s own mercenary ends is unacceptable”.
The member states condemn the propaganda of the ideology of terrorism, extremism and religious intolerance, as well as manifestations of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or convictions in any form. It is a priority to step up the international community’s joint efforts to counter the attempts to involve young people in the activities of terrorist, separatist and extremist groups and will continue to focus on preventing the spread of religious intolerance, xenophobia and racial discrimination.
In response to the threat of chemical and biological terrorism, the SCO members reaffirm and emphasise the need to launch multilateral talks at the Conference on Disarmament on an international convention to combat acts of chemical and biological terrorism.
They are actively and persistently countering global terrorism, separatism and extremism, transnational organised crime, illegal trade in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors, as well as weapons, munitions and explosives, threats to biological and information security and illegal migration. The members will counter the use of information and communications technology to undermine political, economic and public security in the SCO countries, and curb propaganda of terrorism, separatism and extremism online, it said, adding that they emphasised on the need to expand international relations of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure.
Background of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), or Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter, formally establishing the organisation, was signed in June 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003.
The original five nations, with the exclusion of Uzbekistan, were previously members of the Shanghai Five group, founded on 26 April 1996. Since then, the organisation has expanded its membership to eight countries when India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO, it meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation.
Military exercises are also regularly conducted among members to promote cooperation and coordination against terrorism and other external threats, and to maintain regional peace and stability. The official working languages of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are Chinese and Russians. The SCO is primarily centered on its member nations’ Central Asian security-related concerns, often describing the main threats it confronts as being terrorism, separatism and extremism. However evidence is growing that its activities in the area of social development of its member states is increasing fast. Over the past few years, the organisation’s activities have expanded to include increased military cooperation, intelligence sharing, and counterterrorism.
Prior to that, all the nations mentioned except Uzbekistan were members of the Shanghai Five mechanism, a political association based on the Agreement on Enhancing Trust in the Military Area on the Border (Shanghai, 1996), and the Agreement on Mutual Reduction of Armed Forces in the Border Area (Moscow, 1997).
The two documents created a mechanism of mutual trust in the military area in the border regions, and helped to establish genuine partnership. After Uzbekistan joined the organisation in 2001, the Five turned into the Six and was renamed the SCO.
Initially, the goals of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation were in the area of mutual inter-regional activities on countering terrorist acts, separatism and extremism in Central Asia. In June 2002, The Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was signed at the organisation’s Summit in St. Petersburg, which went into effect on 19 September 2003. This is a core charter document stating the organisation’s goals and principles, its structure and major activities.
In addition, the SCO’s plans on fighting the international drug mafia as a financial buttress of global terrorism were announced in 2006, while in 2008, it announced its active participation in normalising the situation in Afghanistan.
Besides, the SCO’s activities also acquired a wide economic dimension. In September 2003 heads of government of the SCO member states signed the Program of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation, designed for 20 years. Its long-term goal is the creation of a free trade zone in the SCO space, while favourable conditions for trade and investment are to be promoted in the short-term perspective.
The main goals of the SCO are strengthening mutual confidence and good-neighbourly relations among the member countries; promoting effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy, science and technology, culture as well as education, energy, transportation, tourism, environmental protection and other fields; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region, moving towards the establishment of a new, democratic, just and rational political and economic international order.
Its internal policy is based on the principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equal rights, consultations, respect for the diversity of cultures and aspiration towards common development,while its external policy is conducted in accordance with the principles of non-alignment, non-targeting anyone and openness.
*Dr. Rajkumar Singh, Professor and Head P.G. Dept. of Political Science, BNMU, West Campus, P.G. Centre, Saharsa. Bihar, India.