By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

On the eve of 10th Summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on June 11, 2010, its basic member states agreed to open the organization’s membership for other regional countries. Through amendment in its basic charter, rules and regulations transmuted to allow new membership in the organization. In-spite of the global and regional crisis, and financial recession,       the Tashkent Declaration, “ pledged to strengthen mutual support on issues relating to each other’s core interests, boost cooperation in the combat against terrorism, separatism and extremism and other destabilizing factors, enhance cooperation in overcoming the aftermath of the global financial crisis and develop infrastructure in the region.”

With over 60 percent of global landmass and half of the world populace, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), took birth from the heels of “Shanghai-Five” in 2001. With China and Russian Federation as the major stakeholders, presently the organization comprises of; Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan as its members. India, Pakistan, Iran and Magnolia are the observer states, whereas, Sri Lanka and Belarus being the dialogue partners.

Upon opening of its membership for new states, Pakistan is striving hard in order to be benefitted from this opportunity. However, Russia is fully backing the Indian membership of SCO, even ahead of Pakistan. Even prior to the Summit, the Russian Ambassador to India, Mr. Alexander Kadakin, said in a statement that, “Our position has all along been that we want India as a full-fledged member of the SCO. The criterion for new membership has not been worked out. But we believe India meets all the requirements to be a member.” While President Zardari, has presented a sound case for the membership of Pakistan in SCO, during its 10th Summit, the Foreign Secretary has expressed the hope that, Pakistan would definitely get the membership of SCO in 2011. Mr. Bashir said that, “SCO heads of states in their speeches focused on close cooperation among SCO states to secure peace in Afghanistan and combating terrorism and drug trafficking in the region.”

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By virtue of its geo-political location, Pakistan has the potential to play a pivotal role in development of its relationship with the SCO countries. It is located at the crossroads of South, Central, West, and East Asia, thus becoming the bridge between various regions and civilizations of Asia. SCO otherwise unites civilizations and communities of Euro-Atlantic and Asia-Pacific together. Through the attainment of the SCO’s membership, Pakistan can fully accrue the benefits from this inter-regional and inter-continental harmony. Since SCO members constitute half of the humanity, therefore there are colossal opportunities and challenges for the Pakistan in the days to come. Besides, two major powers (Russia and China), the other members, and observers of the organization include the hydrocarbon rich Central Asian States and Iran and rapidly rising India. By virtue of its geo-strategic location, Pakistan can become beneficial for the organization through the provision of a linkage between all.

While ending the cold war differentiation, there is need that Pakistan should bolster its strategic ties with Russia, indeed a country having enormous potentials. Compared with the former Communist Soviet Union, Pakistan does not have ideological differences with the modern Russian Federation, a resurgent global power. Through the visit of former President, General Pervaiz Musharraf to Moscow in 2003, the basic groundwork has already been done. Otherwise, Russia does not put traditional opposition to Pakistan at international level. There is a need of gradual built-up of political, economic, and military relationship with Russia. This great power is indeed the next-door neighbour of Pakistan, with whom; we have even ground linkage through Afghanistan and Central Asia. Otherwise, the diversification in the strategic ties is the need of hour.

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Since China is considered as the originator of the SCO, therefore, its rising global power would remain pivotal to this organization. Sino-Pak relationship has come-up to the test of time. China has been pushing the members of this organization for the permanent membership of Pakistan. Apart from the bi-lateral relationship, the SCO forum can best be utilized for further enhancing the Pak-China relationship. Pakistani geo-politics can greatly enhance the Chinese future needs of energy, to boost its industrial and economic growth. There is a need that the current level of political, economic, and military cooperation should be further augmented. The recently signed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline could also be extended up to Xingjian autonomous region of China. Pakistan needs to enhance the volume of its trade with this strategic ally.

Until recently, Pakistan has been dealing with the Central Asian Republics as one entity. This aspect, kept Pakistan much short of attaining its real objectives from the regional geo-politics. While there is no dearth in the immense natural resources of the region, Pakistan needs to correctly identify and exploit these through the development of the bi-lateral relationship with these states, rather as one unit. Through a stabilization process in Afghanistan, there is a need to provide the port access to these land locked countries. The gas pipelines held-up from the region to Pakistan and further east and north, since early 2000 need immediate implementation. There has been a considerable improvement in the Pak-Iran relationship. The forum would further boost and cement this relationship, besides, the current mutuality. Since the only South Asian organization; SAARC could not resolve the traditional bi-lateral issues between these two rival neighbours, therefore, it is expected that the SCO forum may provide such an occasion. Acting as an energy and trade corridor, Pakistan can play a very dominant role in the industrial and economic development of India and China alike. This would be possible only, once the Indo-Pak bi-lateral issues are resolved.

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Over the period, SCO has setup “over twenty large-scale projects related to transportation, energy, and telecommunications and held regular meetings of security, military, defense, foreign affairs, economic, cultural, banking, and other officials from its member states. No multinational organization with such far-ranging and comprehensive mutual interests and activities has ever existed on this scale before.” Apart from strengthen unity and cooperation, maintain stability, and pursue common development in the region, the 10th SCO Summit, has finalized the strategies, for fighting the “three evil forces,” namely terrorism, separatism and extremism; safeguarding security and stability; and advancing pragmatic cooperation among the members of SCO. Pakistan has been worst hit by all three factors, especially the terrorism.

As a front line state in the global war on terror, Pakistan needs to divulge the harsh realities; it has faced in this field in last eight years. The sacrifices of Pakistan during combating the terrorism have yet not been recognized in the true sense by the world in general and most of SCO countries in particular. With the permanent membership, it is expected that the SCO members would more frequently interact with Pakistan to understand its contributions. Moreover, there would be much reduction in the current trust deficit between Pakistan and other SCO members in the days to come.

The writer is an analyst of International Relations.