How SCO can de-escalate India-Pakistan tensions | Sunday Observer

How SCO can de-escalate India-Pakistan tensions

3 March, 2019

India and Pakistan joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as full member-states at the June 8-9, 2017 SCO Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. Before the addition of the two South Asian nations, the SCO consisted of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The now eight-member SCO also has four observer-states, including Afghanistan, and six dialogue-partners, including Sri Lanka. In total, they constitute much of the Asian geography with a population of over three billion people.

The founding purpose of SCO as the largest inter-governmental organisation in the world is to strengthen mutual trust and promote good neighbourly relations among its member-states. This is to be achieved through gradual but consistent efforts by the SCO member-states to engage in multifaceted cooperation to advance their collective, common interest in the sustainable human and protective security of the SCO space. Parallel to this, the SCO seeks to establish a more democratic and rational world order.

Because sustainable peace makes sustainable development possible in Asia and the rest of the world, the SCO Summits continue emphasising the importance of results-driven security cooperation among its member-states, observer-states, and dialogue-partners. The addition of India and Pakistan was widely welcomed as a significant opportunity for the SCO to address the lingering security threats of terrorism, extremism, and separatism in South and Central Asia. These same intertwined threats have provided an enabling environment for organised criminality, while deepening poverty that denies the youthful populations of Asia the socio-economic opportunities and facilities they need to contribute to the sustainable development and peace of their individual nations and collectively to those of the rest of Asia.

That is why Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 18th SCO Summit in Qingdao called on the SCO’s expanded membership to move from talk to action. He said: “We need to actively implement the 2019-2021 program of cooperation for combatting ‘ the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism’; continue to conduct the ‘Peace Mission’ and other joint counter-terrorism exercises…We need to give full play to the role of SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group to facilitate peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan.”

President Xi added that “Countries are increasingly inter-dependent today… confronted with many common threats and challenges that no one can tackle alone. Only by enhancing solidarity and partnership, will we be able to achieve lasting stability and development.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed the Summit as a newly admitted member-state, echoed his Chinese counterpart, floating the concept of SECURE to underpin the work of SCO: S - for security for citizens, E - for economic development, C - for connectivity in the region, U - for unity, R- for respect of sovereignty, E - for environmental protection.

He highlighted instability in Afghanistan as an “Unfortunate effect of terrorism,” noting: “I hope the brave steps towards peace taken by President Ghani will be respected by all in the region.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed the accession of India and Pakistan to the SCO. He stressed that “Countering terrorism remains the priority for cooperation within the SCO,” underlining that the three-year program of action, adopted at the 18th Summit, “Envisions holding joint drills and counter-terror operations, streamlining a closer exchange of experience and operational information.”

The writer is the Ambassador of Afghanistan to Sri Lanka, as well as a Senior International Security Fellow at the New America in Washington DC.