Tricks won’t earn Tsai overseas support
NewTaiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen is scheduled to make transit stops in Miami and Los Angeles in theUnited States during her nine-day overseas trip that will also take her to Panama and Paraguay. The overseas trip starting on Friday will be her first since taking office more than a month ago.
Many of her predecessors have chosen a similar itinerary, but not all of them conveyed goodwill. Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party who was the island leader from 2000 to 2008, had a shameful record of touting “Taiwan’s formal independence” to foreign leaders during such visits and thus posing a grave threat to cross-Straits relations.
Whether or not Tsai will resort to the same trick during her overseas
Some observers have read an aggressive political, even military role into an expanded Shanghai Cooperation Organization as both India and Pakistan are likely to be made full members at the 16th SCO summit in Tashkent on June 23-24. A fewhave even fantasized the SCO as a counterbalance to NATO. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
The SCO’s founding members have made it clear that the twin principles of openness and transparency will continue to drive both its ethos and action.
But the SCO’s role cannot be isolated from the tumultuous international context. The US’ invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and its interference in Syria have destabilized large regions. Its role in the South China Sea has been unwise. And its egging of NATO into assuming an anti-Russia position can only be described as reckless. So by incorporating South Asia, the SCO will gather more mass, and thus more traction, in making its moral voice and friendly advice heard.
Regarding the risk of India-Pakistan rivalry affecting the SCO, it is true relations between the two trip will be closely watched, as she is yet to offer an unequivocal answer to how she sees the 1992 Consensus, the political foundation of cross-Straits ties. The tradition of “leadership diplomacy” dates back to the 1990s, when Lee Teng-hui, then Taiwan leader, flagrantly violated the 1992 Consensus by trying to convince some “diplomatic allies” that the Chinese mainland and Taiwan were two separate states. In return, he was banned from entering theUS during the rest of his tenure.
In stark contrast, Kuomintang leaderMa Ying-jeou managed to make things right because of his adherence to the 1992 Consensus. During his eight-year tenure, Taiwan enjoyed the dividends of a series of fruitful exchanges with the mainland. He even attended countries have not been smooth, but both have vowed to respect the SCO’s principles and culture.
Beijing and Islamabad have been drawn even closer thanks to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and Pakistan is bound to emulate both China and the ethos of the SCO in leveraging its unique geographical position to strengthen its economy and fight terrorism. Also, the SCO will provide Islamabad with another platform to further develop its already improving ties withMoscow.
For India, the SCO will provide equally palpable benefits. India has some border disputes with China— mostly a legacy of its colonial history— and the SCO will offer it a good opportunity to engage with China, which is more than willing to partner it in its economic development. As a full member of the SCO, India will also ponder whether to join a futile and self-defeating coalition of sorts being formed by a third country against China or to join hands with China in ameliorating the lives of its huge population.
China and Russia are now two of the most important poles in the neweconomic and political world order. A multipolar world will be a safer and more prosperous world than a unipolar one, and the strengthened moral voice of an the funeral ceremony of former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yewthanks to the proper arrangements agreed by both sides of the Straits.
Given the facts, Tsai’s first overseas trip— and probably many more to come— will prove to be a fool’s errand if she and the pro-independence DPP refrain from making their stance clear on the expanded SCO will be mutually beneficial for its current and new members, and for the international community.
Aamir Khan, based in Pakistan, is a visiting professor at Beijing Dublin International College at Beijing University of Technology.
There are concerns over the negative implications of making India and Pakistan full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization given their contentious bilateral equations. Indeed, there is some truth in these insinuations, especially because the SCO works by consensus, with all members having veto powers.
But despite the 25 years of hiccups of the not-so-robust South 1992 Consensus. The prospect of the so-called leadership diplomacy is rather dim because the island, in the face of an ongoing economic slowdown, cannot afford to play the endless game of “buying support” of some countries.
Since Tsai contacted some American political heavyweights right after assuming office, she got the green light to enter theUS via two transit stops. Nevertheless, this is unlikely to change the fact that such a civil interaction is still under the framework of the ChinaUS relationship.
TheUS, on its part, should not provide the “soil” for some Taiwan residents’ secessionist activities, because it has made solemn promises to uphold the one-China policy. In fact, theUS’ awkward position in the Taiwan question Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, India and Pakistan have cooperated on various issues in the association, from creating a South Asian Free Trade Area in 2006 to launching a South Asian university in 2009. SAARC was also the first (in 1987) to adopt a Regional Convention for Suppression of Terrorism, which was upgraded through an “Additional Protocol” in 2003.
Moreover, the existing six members of the SCO have taken cognizance of the two South Asian countries’ track record as observers in the organization since 2006. Besides, the rigorous process of their induction, which started in July last year, will continue for at least one more year and further familiarize them with the SCO’s robust substance and style.
The bilateral equations of India and Pakistan will benefit from the positive energy of the SCO but will the SCO gain anything by having them as full members? Yes, because India and Pakistan both are major victims of terrorism, which remains the most enduring focus of the SCO ever since its inception in 2001.
In fact, Tashkent that is hosting the SCO summit also houses the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure and the induction of has a lot to do with the wrong signals it has sent out, such as selling advanced weapons to the island and arranging high-level contacts. But it would be unwise for theUS to replay the old drama, for that will certainly jeopardize China-US ties.
In addition, the way Tsai clarifies her stance, especially her administration’s stance, on crossStraits relations and the 1992 Consensus during her meeting with US officials will exert notable influence on the regional situation. So it is important that Tsai makes the right move and doesn’t pursue the so-called independence through diplomatic channels.
The author is a professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Beijing Union University. IndiaandPakistan (and potentially Iran) will strengthen the organization’s remit to fight terrorism. India has been working since 1996 to evolve a “ComprehensiveConvention onInternationalTerrorism” and RATScould provide it withanideal platform to build a shared understanding with Eurasian countries, withRussiaandChina in the lead.
PresidentXi Jinping’s three-nation tour has generated further excitementaboutChina’s BeltandRoad Initiative, the SilkRoadEconomic Beltandthe 21st CenturyMaritime Silk Road, which couldpromptIndia to explore comprehensive partnerships with the initiativeandsomeof itsownsimilar initiatives. More important, theSCOwill enable India to balance its growing closeness to theUS by strengthening its engagementswithRussiaandChina.
ButPakistan will benefitmuch moreby its stronger integration into the BeltandRoadInitiative, which will expedite the building of theChina-PakistanEconomicCorridor, give it greater recognition as being critical to Afghanistan’s stabilization and, mostof all, help it return to the hyphenated relationshipandparity with India.
SwaranSingh is professor of diplomacyanddisarmamentat Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.