By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, the 10th US national security advisor, who attained the international fame as a political scientist, geo-strategist and a statesman had advanced the theory that; “Control of the Eurasian landmass is the key to global domination and control of Central Asia is the key to control of the Eurasian landmass. Through the formation of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Russia and China, perhaps tried to implement the Brzezinski’s theory. Whilst the interests of both countries converge on the US and NATO expulsion from the region, it diverges on securing their respective interests in the Central Asian region.
Originally created as, “Shanghai-Five” in 1996, the organization was renamed as Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2001. Today it represents half of the global populace and over 60% of the world landmass. It was in the same context, that President Nursultan Nazarbayev, said on the eve of its 5th Summit held in Astana, Kazakhstan in 2005, that, “The leaders of the states sitting at this negotiation table are representatives of half of humanity.”
Established by signing the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions, the Shanghai-Five, later signed the Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions in 1997. Upon transformation to SCO in June 2001, Russia and China signed the “Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation” in July 2001. In the subsequent year (June 2002), the charter of the organization was signed; laying down its principles, purposes, and organizational structures. SCO, indeed, came into being at a time, once there was a significant rise in the Chinese power and Russia was struggling to break the inertia of economic strangulation. Within months of its formation, the world was presented by the Zionists with a new challenge to fight the global war on terror, following the incident of 9/11.
From its inception, the organization had no plans to become a military bloc. However, in its initial years, and owing to the incident of 9/11, the organization perceived as the counter weight to NATO; or else a replacement of Warsaw. With the same perception, NATO and U.S were asked to give a timetable for the vacation of the air bases occupied by them in Central Asian region, from the platform of SCO. It still raises voices from its platform against the presence of extra-regional forces in the region. Upon its emphasis and protest of Uzbekistan, US was compelled to vacate the Karshi-Khanabad air bases in that country; also known as K-2 air bases in 2007.
The Organization is centered around the security related issues of its six members and especially the Central Asian region. In the post Soviet Central Asia, terrorism, separatism, and extremism are the common threats. To combat these issues, SCO established the Regional Anti-terrorism Structure (RATS) in its 2004 Summit. SCO has signed an agreement with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in 2007. The organization has the collective vow to fight the terrorism, cross border drug trafficking and other security issues.
Although SCO negates any future military role from its platform, yet, in the past few years, it has increased its military cooperation and intelligence sharing in the region. There have been number collective military exercises of high level. These joint exercises include troops from China and Russia besides Central Asian States. Russia even used its strategic bombers during these exercises. In the wake of US and NATO troops in the neighbourhood (Afghanistan), these exercises portray a show of force and a collective vow against the presence of extra-regional forces. Indeed, in 2007, in the presence of Chinese President, Mr. Hu, former Russian President Putin said on the eve of these military exercises that, “Russian strategic bombers, would resume regular long-range patrols for the first time since the Cold War.” Starting today, such tours of duty will be conducted regularly and on the strategic scale. Our pilots have been grounded for too long. They are happy to start a new life.”
Besides cooperation in the field of security, the SCO member states are cooperating in the field of economy. All SCO members are also members of Eurasian Economic Community; a framework agreement to enhance economic cooperation signed in 2003. Apart from establishment of free trade area, all member states are cooperating in the field of energy. During the 9th Summit of SCO, China announced to provide $10 billion as a loan to SCO members to shore up their economic crises. SCO countries are also having a cultural cooperation. The organization has now attained the observer status in United Nations General Assembly, EU, ASEAN, OIC, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
On the eve of 10th Summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on June 11, 2010, its 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 the status of an observer state, Pakistan is striving hard to get its membership. Currently, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Magnolia have the observer status in this organization. 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 focussed on close cooperation among SCO states to secure peace in Afghanistan and combating terrorism and drug trafficking in the region.”
Indeed, 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.
Leaving aside the cold war indifferences between Pakistan and Russia, there is need that Pakistan should bolster its strategic ties with Russia, indeed a country with 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.
SCO indeed, is the brainchild of the China, thus this 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.
By now, the organization 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. As a front line state in the global war on terror, Pakistan would be better placed to divulge the harsh realities; it has faced in this field in last eight years. With the permanent membership, there would be much reduction in the current trust deficit between Pakistan and other SCO members.
The writer is an analyst of International Relations.