In­dia, Pak­istan and the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion

The Diplomatic Insight - - News - Dr. Sri­parna Pathak Raimedhi

Re­gion­al­ism and re­gional co­op­er­a­tion have been in­creas­ingly im­por­tant fea­tures of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions since 1945, and this has gained mo­men­tum since the 1990s. The end of the Cold War in the 1990s fur­ther pro­pelled re­gion­al­ism, as the in­ter­na­tional or­der saw the es­tab­lish­ment of a num­ber of re­gional co­op­er­a­tion frame­works in the form of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA) or the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (SCO) for ex­am­ples. Orig­i­nally con­ceived in 1996 as the Shang­hai Five, the SCO back then com­prised of the coun­tries of Rus­sia, China, Kaza­khstan, Kyr­gyzs­tan and Ta­jik­istan and was a fo­rum for build­ing trust and peace along with a fa­cil­i­ta­tion of the de­mar­ca­tion of borders of China and Rus­sia and the three newly in­de­pen­dent Soviet Re­publics. The Treaty on Deep­en­ing Mil­i­tary Trust in Bor­der Re­gions was in­stru­men­tal in the birth of the Shang­hai Five. The sig­na­to­ries to the treaty were Kaza­khstan, Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China, Kyr­gyzs­tan, Rus­sia and Ta­jik­istan. The same coun­tries signed the Treaty on Re­duc­tion of Mil­i­tary Forces in Bor­der Re­gions on April 24, 1997 in Moscow. Sub­se­quent sum­mits of the Shang­hai Five took place in Al­maty, Kaza­khstan in 1998, in Bishkek, Kyr­gyzs­tan in 1999 and in Dushanbe in Ta­jik­istan in 2000. At the sum­mit in Dushanbe, the mem­bers agreed to op­pose in­ter­ven­tion in oth­ers’ in­ter­nal af­fairs and to sup­port each other’s ef­forts in safe­guard­ing the sovereignty, ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and so­cial sta­bil­ity. The an­nual sum­mit in 2001 was held in Shang­hai again, ad­mit­ted Uzbek­istan. Sub­se­quently on June 15, 2011 the six mem­ber coun­tries signed the Dec­la­ra­tion of the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion, aim­ing to trans­form the or­gan­i­sa­tion into a higher level of co­op­er­a­tion. The next year, the head of the SCO mem­ber states met in Saint Peters­burg, Rus­sia, where they signed the SCO Char­ter which de­tailed the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pur­poses, prin­ci­ples, struc­tures and the form of co­op­er­a­tion, and es­tab­lished it in in­ter­na­tional law. Given the al­ter­na­tive vi­sions the group­ing has, mem­ber­ship has been sought by sev­eral coun­tries in­clud­ing Iran, Mon­go­lia, In­dia and Pak­istan. Fi­nally in 2014, af­ter the SCO sum­mit in Dushanbe, var­i­ous sig­nals from coun­tries sig­nalled that In­dia and Pak­istan would be in­vited to join the or­gan­i­sa­tion at the next sum­mit in Ufa in July 2015. Ac­cord­ingly both In­dia and Pak­istan were in­ducted as mem­bers at the 15th sum­mit on July 10th this year. In­dia and Pak­istan have had a tu­mul­tuous re­la­tion­ship since 1945. How­ever, fact also re­mains that both have been im­por­tant mem­bers of the South Asia As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion and are im­por­tant play­ers in the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem. In or­der to un­der­stand how the mem­ber­ship of this two could be a win-win sit­u­a­tion for to un­der­stand what could be the in­di­vid­ual gains for In­dia and Pak­istan re­spec­tively. For In­dia, the SCO mem­ber­ship presents it with a fresh op­por­tu­nity to con­struc­tively en­gage with China’s Mar­itime Silk Road strat­egy. Ad­di­tion­ally, given the fact that the SCO mil­i­tary al­liances, it is in line with In­dia’s pol­icy of non align­ment. Leav­ing aside the re­la­tion­ship char­ac­terised by with China, the rest of the mem­ber coun­tries have am­i­ca­ble re­la­tions with In­dia. The mem­ber­ship could ac­tu­ally pro­vide In­dia with a plat­form to not just en­gage with China, but also to deepen its en­gage­ment with the other mem­ber coun­tries, and could fa­cil­i­tate In­dia’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in re­gional de­ci­sion mak­ing. Ac­cord­ing to ex­pec­ta­tions, the SCO will play an im­por­tant role in Afghanistan af­ter the exit of the In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force(ASAF). This has im­pli­ca­tions for both In­dia and Pak­istan. In­dia has a lot of stakes in the tran­si­tion, and would SCO in con­tri­bu­tion to de­lib­er­a­tions and bur­den shar­ing in energy se­cu­rity and ad­vanc­ing con­nec­tiv­ity in the re­gion. One of the pri­mary vi­sions of the SCO is an en­hance­ment of re­gional se­cu­rity, The Re­gional Anti Ter­ror­ist Struc­ture (RATS) co­or­di­nates ac­tiv­i­ties that in­clude in­for­ma­tion shar­ing and the three evils of ter­ror­ism, ex­trem­ism and sep­a­ra­tion. The ISAF’s with­drawal the RATS’ mis­sion. The de­ter­mi­na­tion very much in har­mony with Pak­istan’s re­quire­ments, and the ex­pan­sion of mem­ber­ship of the SCO- par­tic­u­larly in this re­gard would be im­mensely help­ful. With re­spect to Pak­istan, it holds enor­mous prom­ise as a prospec­tive energy and trade cor­ri­dor for the re­gion. The SCO’s ro­bust endorsement of China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tives leads to a ve­he­ment sup­port for the China Pak­istan eco­nomic cor­ri­dor. Pak­istan can also utilise its ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion to be­come a vi­tal re­gional hub in the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of Cen­tral Asia. Ad­di­tion­ally, the mem­ber­ship ac­cel­er­a­tion of the Rus­sian-Pak­istani co­op­er­a­tion. On April 16, Pak­istan ever joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises. Closer in­ter­ac­tion as SCO mem­bers would fur­ther the warm­ing up process.

As far as In­dia is con­cerned, the SCO

mem­ber­ship would sim­i­larly help In­dia strengthen its ties fur­ther with Cen­tral Asian coun­tries. In April this year, Bharat Heavy Elec­tri­cals Lim­ited (BHEL)- a state owned power equip­ment maker signed a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing with a Rus­sian com­pany INTMA to set up a gas based power pro­ject in Kaza­khstan. With a pos­si­bil­ity of more in­ter­ac­tions at the SCO, In­dia could aim at bet­ter eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion with the coun­tries of the Cen­tral Asian re­gion. Eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion is an im­por­tant agenda of the SCO and ex­pan­sion of the mem­ber­ship this con­text. The SCO mem­ber­ship way to build promis­ing bridges with Cen­tral Asia, while main­tain­ing its em­pha­sis on reach­ing out to this re­gion through di­rect bi­lat­eral chan­nels. The im­por­tance of Cen­tral Asian states in In­dia’s for­eign pol­icy has been re­cently demon­strated by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s visit to these states. The SCO as a fo­rum could pro­vide In­dia with a lee­way in pur­su­ing energy in­ter­est. In­dia al­ready has large in­vest­ments in the de­vel­op­ment of the Ira­nian Chaba­har Port which could be in­stru­men­tal in pro­vid­ing greater ac­cess to Cen­tral Asian coun­tries. China has al­ways had am­i­ca­ble re­la­tions with Pak­istan. With In­dia, de­spite prob­lem­atic po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions, China is de­pen­dent on In­dia as it is its largest trad­ing part­ner in South Asia. But Chi­nese in­ter­est in In­dia and Pak­istan has in­creased par­tic­u­larly af­ter adopt­ing the new Mar­itime Silk Road strat­egy, and ac­cess to the In­dian Ocean which could be seen as a plau­si­ble out­come af­ter the mem­ber­ship would be val­ued not just by China but by the other mem­bers of the SCO as well. new strat­egy an­nounced by China as greater con­nec­tiv­ity will help both the coun­tries to boost their ex­ports. In 2015 it­self, China an­nounced in­fra­struc­ture projects in Pak­istan, and the 3000 kilo­me­ters long China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­door worth USD 46 bil­lion- also re­garded a s the big­gest con­nec­tiv­ity pro­ject be­tween the two coun­tries af­ter the Karako­ram High­way built in 1970 will strengthen the route for China’s energy im­ports from the Mid­dle East by about 12000 kilo­me­ters. An in­creased mem­ber­ship of the SCO could fa­cil­i­tate fur­ther­ing of eco­nomic re­la­tions be­tween China and Pak­istan All in all, con­fer­ring mem­ber­ship to these two coun­tries seems like a win­win sit­u­a­tion for all in­volved. For In­dia and Pak­istan in par­tic­u­lar, the SCO could prove to be an ex­cel­lent fo­rum to de­lib­er­ate at the high­est level on is­sues that could lead to a bet­ter­ment of re­la­tions be­tween the two. Be­sides, a bet­ter­ment of re­la­tions cou­pled with in­creased bon­homie be­tween all mem­bers could lead to an ex­ten­sion of the Rus­sian Chi­nese oil and gas pipe­lines to In­dia. In­dia and Pak­istan could also re­visit the cre­ation of the Turk­menistan- Afghanistan- Pak­istan pipeline along with the Iran- Pak­istanIn­dia pipeline. Both In­dia and Pak­istan per­cent­age of the global pop­u­la­tion mar­ket for ex­ports. Af­ter the in­duc­tion of In­dia and Pak­istan into the SCO, half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion would be rep­re­sented, mak­ing the SCO the big­gest re­gional body in that re­spect. Co­op­er­a­tion has been the hall­mark of re­gional or­gan­i­sa­tions, and the SCO with its ex­tended mem­ber­ship is of an agent to foster co­op­er­a­tion and im­proved re­la­tions. The ex­panded way in con­fer­ring greater le­git­i­macy on the SCO and will pro­duce eco­nomic As stated by the Xin­hua News Agency in 2014, the ex­pan­sion will tes­tify to the rest of the world that the SCO is a truly open and equal plat­form for safe­guard­ing re­gional peace and de­vel­op­ment and not an ex­clu­sive and am­bi­tious China led mil­i­tary al­liance. While it could be ar­gued that there is too much op­ti­mism and eu­pho­ria sur­round­ing the ex­pan­sion of the mem­ber­ship, fact re­mains that the ex­tended mem­ber­ship at least pro­vides the latest mem­bers in the form of In­dia and Pak­istan to at least an­a­lyse the ways in which this form of in­te­gra­tion could lead to bet­ter out­comes that could af­fect the se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity of the re­gion and the world at large.

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