Amid the rapidly changing regional security environment, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) needs to be focusing more on securing the regional interest. As a regional bloc, it would be appropriate to extend the directive of SCO from economic cooperation to comprehensive security cooperation.
This year marks the completion of two decades of SCO, which seems more willing to strengthen the regional environment. The SCO Council of Heads of Governments meeting on the eve of the 20th anniversary of SCO also underlined the importance of ‘regional connectivity’.
Since 1945, regional cooperation and regionalism have emerged as vital elements of the world of politics. The idea new peaked after the end of the cold war and changed the shape of the international arena. The impetus to establish new regional cooperation was globalization and economic stability. Cross-national economic ties/interdependence to avert future conflicts is the spine of this post-cold war world affairs.
To ensure the total well-being of the eastern region, in 2001, SCO was established with the following goals – strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness; promoting their practical cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research, technology, culture, education, energy, transport, tourism, and environmental protection. Moreover, making combined efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and establish a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order for the region.
It is no hidden fact that Afghanistan has been facing a humanitarian crisis for a long. Regional connectivity is subject to stability in Afghanistan. The SCO member states are keen to resolve the Afghan maze to rejuvenate and strengthen the cooperation of SCO states. The Afghan issue was one of the highlights of the recent SCO summit 2021, held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a parallel summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Dushanbe, hold that “failure to provide the necessary support to Afghanistan could allow terrorism and drugs to flourish while pushing the country into a full-blown humanitarian crisis — a perspective that has raised the alarm of the potential for tens of thousands of refugees to pour over the border.”
According to the South China Morning Post, “the SCO summit will try to reach a consensus on dealing with the Taliban and urge the international community to ease pressure on the group.”
Furthermore, the SCO member states should urge the international community and ease sanctions on the newly announced interim government and provide humanitarian assistance to unprivileged people of Afghanistan who suffered for more than two decades because of the war against terrorism. As a multilateral, regional organization, SCO must also push the international community to unfreeze the nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank, which the U.S. administration froze in August 2021.
Afghanistan is surrounded by five SCO states, including China, Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Hence, to ensure development, security and stability, SCO’s proactive role is essential.
According to Mr. Vladimir Norov, Secretary-General – SCO, “the prosperity of this vast space depends on reaching peace and stability in Afghanistan as soon as possible. An observer state at the SCO, that country is an inalienable part of Central and South Asia and a bridge between them.”
Furthermore, the key to economic prosperity and stability is infrastructure development, as it opens up avenues for economic growth through connectivity. As Mr. Norov rightly underlined the [importance] “to build optimal transport routes, facilitate sustainable economic growth and create manufacturing and distribution chains in the SCO space and Eurasia.”
The people of Afghanistan are living a catastrophe, it was already a remote region, but the decades-long war pushed it further to the ‘stone ages’. The western powers lynched the childhood of the Afghan children – made them the goods smuggler at a very innocent age.
Afghanistan is the fulcrum of a comprehensive regional development policy. Without ample funds, the interim government would not be able to function, and above all, in such an economic situation, it would be hard to tackle the refugee issue and curb extremism and terrorism.
“SCO member nations should help to drive a smooth transition in Afghanistan and assist it in developing an inclusive political structure that would see it follow moderate internal and external policies,” said President Xi.
In addition, Pakistan’s Premier Khan called for “economic support for Afghanistan to prevent a humanitarian crisis and an economic meltdown.”
The future of the Eurasian region is dependent on Afghanistan. A comprehensive approach is needed to curb the ‘three evils’ – separatism, extremism, and terrorism. The Eurasian picture without peace and stability in Afghanistan [at the crossroads of three regions] is incomplete. The people of Afghanistan are looking towards the International Community and the regional states. SCO countries need to come forward as responsible regional players and do the needful. Moreover, regional security and stability are essential to fulfil SCO’s idea of regional connectivity and economic prosperity.