SCO and Regional Security

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Introduction

An IPRI Review meeting on “SCO and Regional Security” was held at IPRI conference hall on August 8, 2016. In the prevalent era of globalization, a number of regional organizations have emerged on world stage. These organizations have become multifunctional pursuing security and economic goals. States through these regional platforms are trying to address the transnational threats/challenges. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an emerging regional grouping consisting of China, Russia and four Central Asian Republics (CARs). The organization was officially established in 2001 with an objective to cooperate in regional security and anti-terrorism. However, over the years, SCO has expanded its scope for cooperation. The leading countries of the organization China and Russia have been pursuing economic cooperation. SCO has opened itself to the outside world, through arrangements/mechanisms and by awarding observer/dialogue partner status to interact with other countries/regions. India and Pakistan have been accepted as de-facto SCO members.

Salient Points

The salient aspects are as under:-

  • SCO: A Brief Overview
    • The origin of SCO is rooted in the resolution process of border dispute between USSR and China. The dispute became multilateral when the former Soviet Central Asian Republics (CARs) gained independence. To find a solution to the border disputes, the heads of state of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan met in Shanghai.[1] The main focus of the first “Shanghai Summit” was to discuss confidence-building measures in the border regions. The “Shanghai Five” concluded a “Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions-26 April 1996”.[2] Sequel to this, a “Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions” was signed in Moscow in 1997.[3] The Shanghai Five talks brought stability to the region. It was agreed not to employ force against each other (or conduct military exercises directed against each other).
    • “Shanghai Five” Transformation into SCO. In 2000, China suggested to institutionalize the Shanghai Five arrangement for enhancing multilateral cooperation.[4] All the member states agreed and with the inclusion of Uzbekistan (2001),[5] the Shanghai Five officially became the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In June 2002, SCO’s Charter was signed.[6]
    • The SCO’s basic bureaucratic structure consists of two standing bodies: the Secretariat based in Beijing and overseen by a Secretary General who serves a three-year term, and the Regional Anti-Terror Structure (RATS), based in Tashkent.[7] In SCO, mechanisms are in place for convening meetings of Chief Executives/Prime Ministers of member states, Speakers of Parliament, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Economy and Education.[8] Heads of Law Enforcement Agencies and Prosecutor Generals are also involved at appropriate decision-making levels.[9]
    • SCO Member States. SCO has six member states – China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.[10] Lately, Pakistan and India (acceding states) have signed the memorandum of obligations for SCO membership.[11] The four observer states in SCO are Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia, and the six dialogue partners include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and [12]
    • SCO’s agenda revolves around enhancing regional security and improving stability for maintaining peace. Article 1 of the Charter states that SCO seeks to “strengthen mutual trust, friendship and good neighborliness between the member states and to consolidate multidisciplinary cooperation in the maintenance and strengthening of peace, security and stability in the region”.[13]
    • SCO has signed MoUs with Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Eurasian Economic Community (EEC), Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).[14] SCO also participates in the sessions of the UN General Assembly as an observer.[15] Through these regional and international platforms, SCO exchanges views on international security and stability, terrorism and trans‐border crimes.
  • SCO and Regional Security
    • According to SCO Charter, its member‐states should not have an active military conflict, and work towards stabilizing the border regions, while building military trust for maintaining peace and stability.[16] Under the Shanghai Five arrangement, the border dispute between China, Russia and three CARs (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) was resolved and troops were reduced along the borders. From conflict avoidance standpoint, it can be inferred that SCO including its predecessor ‘Shanghai Five’ both managed to reduce the possibility of conflicts among the member states.[17]
    • In August 2007, SCO members signed a ‘Treaty on long-term good neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation’, at the Bishkek Summit.[18]
    • Joint Military Exercises. SCO member states hold joint military exercises. In 2005, Russia and China held war games called ‘Peace Mission 2005’. Subsequently, ‘Peace Mission 2007’[19] and ‘Peace Mission 2010’ were held in Russia and Kazakhstan respectively. Military personnel from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan participated.[20] Military cooperation under SCO has caused concern among US/Western officials. However, SCO leaders have argued that the “increased threats of terrorism, extremism and separatism” make it necessary to have a “full-scale involvement of armed forces”. [21]
    • Efforts to Curtail Terrorism
      • The East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) elements active in Xinjiang province of China[22] and the terrorist outfit – Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)[23] operating in Central Asia heightened security threats in the region. The SCO member states have resolved to jointly fight terrorism through the organization’s platform, rather than with the help of extra regional forces. China was the prime mover of this initiative.[24]
      • SCO has established Regional Anti‐Terrorism Structure-RATS; the functions of this body are to coordinate the efforts of SCO member states in combating terrorism, separatism and extremism.[25] SCO member states have also adopted “Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism”.[26]
      • In April 2006, SCO announced plans to fight cross‐border drug crimes under the counter‐terrorism rubric, a step towards security cooperation.[27] In October 2007, the SCO signed an agreement with the CSTO, in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, to broaden cooperation on issues such as security, crime and drug trafficking.[28]
      • At the 15th SCO Summit, “Ufa Declaration – July 2015” called for an anti-terrorism plan, to limit ingress of Daish in Afghanistan and the region at large.[29] The summit noted that drug money was a major source of funding for terrorist groups.[30]
    • SCO has concerns regarding the presence of extra-regional forces in the region. In the aftermath of 9/11, US/coalition troops were deployed in Afghanistan. US had acquired air bases from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. In 2005, SCO issued a joint communiqué (Astana Declaration) in which both the Central Asian states were compelled to get the bases vacated.[31] This statement created an impression that SCO was an anti-Western coalition aimed at countering the US military footprints in Central Asia.[32] The US request for observer status was refused because of its being an extra-regional power.[33]
    • Establishment of SCO-Afghan Contact Group. SCO supports a peaceful/stable Afghanistan through cooperative counter-terrorism efforts and combating narcotics trade.[34] In November 2005 the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group was established in Beijing.[35] SCO has hosted conferences on Afghanistan. The first conference on Afghanistan was held in 2009, in which EU and NATO were also invited.[36] In Ufa Summit, the agenda item on regional security included Afghanistan.[37]
    • Discouraging Arms Race. SCO has addressed the issue of arms race vis-à-vis regional security.[38] In June 2012, the SCO members pointed out that “the strengthening of missile defence by a country or a group of countries in a unilateral and unrestrained manner in disregard to the legitimate interests of other countries will cause harm to international security and global strategic stability.”[39]
  • India and Pakistan SCO Membership
    • The Article 2 of the SCO Charter prohibits member states from aggression, use of force, and seeking unilateral military superiority in adjacent areas,[40] thus, calling for respecting territorial integrity and inviolability of the state borders. The Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir has seen intermittent violence. At SCO Islamabad and New Delhi will have an opportunity to discuss border issues and build much needed trust for a comprehensive bilateral dialogue. Focus of SCO on terrorism, as stated in the Article 1 that member states will “jointly counteract terrorism, separatism, and extremism in all their manifestations”[41] is another area where Islamabad and New Delhi can address mutual concerns and move forward in removing the bottlenecks that hinders bilateral talks.
    • In the SCO framework, Pakistan can expand its defence and security relations with Russia, which have remained cold due to India-Russia strategic relations and Russia’s perceived role of Pakistan in the Afghan war.

 SCO and Regional Prosperity

  • SCO is best described by Chinese scholars as ‘a cart with two wheels’, referring to the equal degree of importance attached to security and economic cooperation.[42] The two main founding members, China and Russia are economic strength of the organization. China’s economic growth makes it a world economic power whereas Russia has started a march towards redefining its status in the world politics. The resource rich Central Asian member states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan hold approximately 40 percent of the world oil and natural gas resources.[43] The cumulative GDP of all member states including Pakistan and India is about US $ 15.323 trillion.[44]
  • China has been pursuing establishment of a joint financial institution under SCO framework. China advocates that SCO member states must have their own financial bank, to speed up infrastructure development projects. In 2003, a special programme for cooperation in energy, information, telecommunications, environmental protection and comprehensive utilization of natural resources was launched by SCO. The cooperation in trade and investment facilitation was with an emphasis on building infrastructure such as roads and railways and harmonizing customs and tariffs.[45]
  • The 15th Summit at Ufa laid special emphasis on commitment towards deepening economic cooperation. The “SCO Development Strategy 2025” approved in the summit called for cooperation in trade, ensuring regional stability and prompt responses to conflicts and crises. [46]
  • Cultural cooperation is also promoted within the SCO framework. A joint statement for continued cultural cooperation was signed in Beijing in April 2002. [47]
  • The expansion of SCO, in particular the inclusion of India and Pakistan is likely to strength regional connectivity. As stated by former President Musharraf “Pakistan provides the natural link between the SCO states to connect the Eurasian heartland with the Arabian Sea and South Asia.”[48] The Russian Federation, China and CARs could establish a link with Gwadar via the north-south trade/energy corridor. Once the CPEC starts functioning, it will connect China, Pakistan, Central Asia, Caucasus and Russia.[49] The regional re-connectivity through economic integration and interdependencies will also offer possibilities of peaceful conflict resolution which is the need of this part of the world.

Major Conclusions

  • SCO is an emerging international organization having wide domain of political, economic, and security cooperation amongst its member countries. Russia views Central Asia squarely within its sphere of influence and tilts more towards security aspects of the SCO, while the Chinese desire economic inroads and the influence that it brings.[50]
  • The maturing of SCO with expanding scope and popularity would discourage involvement of extra regional countries in the region. Acceptance of Pakistan and India as full members has expanded its zone of influence south towards warm waters of Indian Ocean.
  • SCO will have four nuclear weapons states (Russia, China, Pakistan and India) and three of the world’s major emerging economies in its folds. Both SCO heavyweights – China and Russia and the leading actors of South Asia – India and Pakistan through the SCO platform can discuss the pressing issues of stabilizing Afghanistan and terrorism.
  • Presence of India and Pakistan in the SCO, dealing with regional security and peace means that the old rivalries and conflicts have to give way to new convergences and constructive cooperation between regional countries. SCO has experience in resolution of boundary disputes, and India and Pakistan, as members of SCO, can utilize this framework for settling their issues such as Sir Creek, Siachen and Kashmir.
  • Pakistan can seek assistance from the expertise of the RATS, run by SCO. Likewise, Pakistan’s security agencies can initiate institutional dialogue with this centre for coordinating their efforts and pursuing a joint strategy to eliminate this menace from the region.

[1] Muhammad Ihsan Qadir and Saif ur Rehman, “Expansion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Harbinger of Regional Peace and Prosperity”, Journal of Political Studies, Vol. 23, Issue 1, 2016: 117-118, (accessed August 2, 2016), http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/pols/pdf-files/8%20-%20IHSAN%20-%20SAIF_v23_1_16.pdf.

[2] Huma Rehman and M. Faisal, “SCO and India-Pakistan Conflict”, Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) Insight: Quarterly News & Views, p. 24, (accessed July 30, 2016), http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Paper-3-I.-3-V.-3.pdf.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Nicklas Norling and Niklas Swanstrom, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, trade, and the roles of Iran, India and Pakistan”, Central Asian Survey, Vol. 26, Issue 3, 2007, (accessed August 6, 2016), http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02634930701702779.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Huma Rehman and M. Faisal, “SCO and India-Pakistan Conflict”, p. 25, http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Paper-3-I.-3-V.-3.pdf.

[7] Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “SCO Membership: Potentials for Pakistan”, ISPR Hilal Magazine, Edition 2, Vol. 52, August 2015, (accessed August 4, 2016), http://hilal.gov.pk/index.php/layouts/item/1538-sco-membership-potentials-for-pakistan.

[8] Huma Rehman and M. Faisal, “SCO and India-Pakistan Conflict”, p. 26, http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Paper-3-I.-3-V.-3.pdf.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Muhammad Ihsan Qadir and Saif ur Rehman, “Expansion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Harbinger of Regional Peace and Prosperity”, 118, http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/pols/pdf-files/8%20-%20IHSAN%20-%20SAIF_v23_1_16.pdf.

[11] “Pakistan, India Edge Closer to Joining SCO”, The Express Tribune, June 25, 2016, (accessed August 6, 2016), http://tribune.com.pk/story/1129712/pakistan-india-edge-closer-joining-sco/.

[12] Muhammad Ihsan Qadir and Saif ur Rehman, “Expansion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Harbinger of Regional Peace and Prosperity”, 118, http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/pols/pdf-files/8%20-%20IHSAN%20-%20SAIF_v23_1_16.pdf.

[13] Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter, (accessed July 27, 2016), http://www.soi.org.br/upload/34b4f65564132e7702726ee2521839c790b895453b6de5509cf1f997e9e50405.pdf.

[14] Huma Rehman and M. Faisal, “SCO and India-Pakistan Conflict”, p. 27, http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Paper-3-I.-3-V.-3.pdf.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter, (accessed July 27, 2016), http://www.soi.org.br/upload/34b4f65564132e7702726ee2521839c790b895453b6de5509cf1f997e9e50405.pdf.

[17] Muhammad Ihsan Qadir and Saif ur Rehman, “Expansion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Harbinger of Regional Peace and Prosperity”, p. 118-125, http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/pols/pdf-files/8%20-%20IHSAN%20-%20SAIF_v23_1_16.pdf.

[18] Roman Muzalevsky, “SCO Attempts to Deepen Cooperation at Head-of-State Summit in Krygyzstan”, Eurasia Daily Monitor, September 18, 2013, Vol: 10, Issue: 165, (accessed August 2, 2016), http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=41377&no_cache=1#.V76Fffl97Z4.

[19] Ishtiaq Ahmad, “Shanghai Cooperation Organization: China, Russia, and Regionalism in Central Asia”, Conference on ‘Inter-Asian Connections”, February 21-23, 2008, Social Sciences Research Council, Dubai School of Government, University of Dubai, UAE, p. 2, (accessed August 15, 2016), http://ishtiaqahmad.com/downloads/SCO_Dubai_Feb_08.pdf.

[20] Huma Rehman and M. Faisal, “SCO and India-Pakistan Conflict”, p. 27, http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Paper-3-I.-3-V.-3.pdf.

[21] Ishtiaq Ahmad, “Shanghai Cooperation Organization: China, Russia, and Regionalism in Central Asia”, p. 2, http://ishtiaqahmad.com/downloads/SCO_Dubai_Feb_08.pdf.

[22] Muhammad Ihsan Qadir and Saif ur Rehman, “Expansion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Harbinger of Regional Peace and Prosperity”, p. 123, http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/pols/pdf-files/8%20-%20IHSAN%20-%20SAIF_v23_1_16.pdf.

[23] Alisher Sidikov, “Pakistan Blames IMU Militants for Afghan Border Unrest”, July 2, 2008, (accessed August 6, 2016), http://www.rferl.org/content/Pakistan_IMU_Militants_Afghan_Border_Unrest/1181286.html.

[24] Muhammad Ihsan Qadir and Saif ur Rehman, “Expansion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Harbinger of Regional Peace and Prosperity”, p. 126, http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/pols/pdf-files/8%20-%20IHSAN%20-%20SAIF_v23_1_16.pdf.

[25] Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter, http://www.soi.org.br/upload/34b4f65564132e7702726ee2521839c790b895453b6de5509cf1f997e9e50405.pdf.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Huma Rehman and M. Faisal, “SCO and India-Pakistan Conflict”, p. 29, http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Paper-3-I.-3-V.-3.pdf.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Muhammad Munir, “Outcome of SCO Summit”, Pakistan Observer, July 22, 2016.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Muhammad Ihsan Qadir and Saif ur Rehman, “Expansion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Harbinger of Regional Peace and Prosperity”, p. 123, http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/pols/pdf-files/8%20-%20IHSAN%20-%20SAIF_v23_1_16.pdf.

[32] Huma Rehman and M. Faisal, “SCO and India-Pakistan Conflict”, p. 29, http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Paper-3-I.-3-V.-3.pdf.

[33] Ishtiaq Ahmad, “Shanghai Cooperation Organization: China, Russia, and Regionalism in Central Asia”, p. 7, http://ishtiaqahmad.com/downloads/SCO_Dubai_Feb_08.pdf.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Anna Matveeva and Antonio Giustozzi, “The SCO: A Regional Organization in the Making”, Crisis States Research Centre, LSE, Working Paper 39, No. 2, September 2008, p. 16, (accessed July 27, 2016), http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/22937/1/wp39.2.pdf.

[36] Muhammad Munir, “Outcome of SCO Summit”, Pakistan Observer, July 22, 2016.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter, http://www.soi.org.br/upload/34b4f65564132e7702726ee2521839c790b895453b6de5509cf1f997e9e50405.pdf.

[39] Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “SCO Membership: Potentials for Pakistan”, ISPR Hilal Magazine, Edition 2, Vol. 52, August 2015, (accessed August 4, 2016), http://hilal.gov.pk/index.php/layouts/item/1538-sco-membership-potentials-for-pakistan.

[40] Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter, http://www.soi.org.br/upload/34b4f65564132e7702726ee2521839c790b895453b6de5509cf1f997e9e50405.pdf.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Muhammad Ihsan Qadir and Saif ur Rehman, “Expansion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Harbinger of Regional Peace and Prosperity”, p. 118, http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/pols/pdf-files/8%20-%20IHSAN%20-%20SAIF_v23_1_16.pdf.

[43] Ibid, 127.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Muhammad Munir, “Outcome of SCO Summit”, Pakistan Observer, July 22, 2016.

[47] Huma Rehman and M. Faisal, “SCO and India-Pakistan Conflict”, p. 30, http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Paper-3-I.-3-V.-3.pdf.

[48] President Musharraf’s Address  at SCO Summit held at Shanghai, China, 15 June 2006, (accessed  August 4, 2016), https://presidentmusharraf.wordpress.com/2006/07/07/sco-states-summit-2006/.

[49] Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “SCO Membership: Potentials for Pakistan”, http://hilal.gov.pk/index.php/layouts/item/1538-sco-membership-potentials-for-pakistan.

[50] Huma Rehman and M. Faisal, “SCO and India-Pakistan Conflict”, p. 34, http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Paper-3-I.-3-V.-3.pdf.

 

 

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About the Author

Ms. Amna Ejaz Rafi is an Assistant Research Officer (ARO) in Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). She holds a Masters in Defence and Diplomatic Studies (DDS) from Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU). Her masters thesis was on “India’s Quest for Security Council Membership: Ramifications for South Asia”. As a student, Ms. Rafi participated in ‘1st International Conference on Volunteerism and Millennium Development Goals; the conference was jointly conducted by National Commission for Human Development-NCHD and UN. She also attended an interaction programme with University of Nebraska, the US. Since her job, her area of interest is ‘Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia’. She has participated in conferences at home and abroad. Ms. Rafi has participated in the ‘National Media Workshop (NMW)’, held in National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad. She also attended the "GANSU International Fellowship Programme", held from 15 June – 15 July 2015, in Lanzhou, China.

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