SCO holds key to regional peace after US pullout
June 17, 2011
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is going to celebrate its tenth anniversary on June 15. Besides China, Russia, four Central Asian nations — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — are its members. It was formed as a response to the threat posed by Taliban regime to the neighboring countries. The organization has become a symbol of peace and stability due to its emphasis on economic and security cooperation coupled with the respect for the sovereignty of member nations.
There are speculations that India and Pakistan are going to be given a full membership of the SCO. Once the two traditional foes join the regional forum, most of the problems of Afghanistan would be automatically solved — the regional peace hinges so much on the nature of ties between India and Pakistan. By joining the same bloc the regional powers would be resolving well known ‘Asian Dilemma’ that is the real culprit behind Afghan instability.
Initially the SCO took the US invasion of Afghanistan as a blessing in disguise, but by mid of the last decade, it started objecting to the US airbases in Central Asia, demanding a deadline for the closure of the same after the active phase of the War on Terror was over. Finding no clear answer, the SCO members have started holding joint military exercises since 2007 and the practice is still on. This is what urged the western media to project the regional organization as a counterweight to NATO.
At the 2005 summit, the SCO called for the withdrawal of all American bases in Central Asia. Uzbekistan, subsequently, closed US airbase established during the US war on Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan demanded a 100-fold increase in the rent for allowing a US base when the lease expired in May 2006. The US has not been able to find a way to hold on to its base in Kyrgyzstan till date.
China’s Look West policy assigns high importance to Central Asia due to this region’s vast but untapped energy resources as well as its potential to serve as a market. China has pumped billions into Central Asia by building pipeline and railways infrastructure. A chain of banks ensures easy availability of credit to facilitate imports from China.
For Russia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has proved very helpful as it has facilitated the selling of its weaponry and defense technology to China which has underwent the process of modernizing its army during these years. On the other hand, China has not objected to the increasing number of Russian forces in Central Asia and has shared concern with its strategic partner vis-à-vis NATO’s growing influence in the former members of the Soviet Union.
Whether it’s embracing the concept of traditional concept sovereignty, which calls for strictly observing the principle of non-intervention in the affairs of the state, or some other reason, the SCO has come to have an identity as an anti-US regional body. The SCO, through its various resolutions, has condemned the US unilateralism in world politics. China and Russia’s concern vis-à-vis US policy towards Middle East are well-known.
The SCO stands for the status-quo and is not in favor of changing international boundaries. It has declared religious militancy and ethnic separatism as the dark forces and has been undertaking special military exercise with the member countries to counter these threats. Contrary to the US approach to meet the challenges of separatism, particularly inspired by ethno-nationalism, the SCO strategy is to build institutions and increase economic opportunities, rather than partitioning and creating new states, to address the problem.
More and more Asian nations are expressing their desire to join SCO. India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia, which enjoy the status of observers, have requested full membership. The president of Afghanistan is attending the annual summits of SCO for last couple of years as a guest, and the organization is considering its full membership.
This year’s summit, falling on June 15, is of great significance. The US president has given a deadline of starting a pull out from Afghanistan by next month, and the process is to be completed till 2014. Contrary to the Bush administration, the US under President Obama believes stability of Afghanistan is not possible without the cooperation of the regional powers. So, it would be unwise to pull US troops out without the presence of any regional mechanism to take care of Afghanistan. The SCO is simply the only hope for Afghanistan, and, hence, for the US as well.
There are speculations that India and Pakistan are going to be given a full membership of the SCO. Once the two traditional foes join the regional forum, most of the problems of Afghanistan would be automatically solved — the regional peace hinges so much on the nature of ties between India and Pakistan. By joining the same bloc, the regional powers would be resolving well-known ‘Asian dilemma’ that is the real culprit behind Afghan instability.
The SCO no doubt has to play a key role in US exit plan. At the same time, the US will likely to be counted as a partner of regional peace for the times to come. In exchange, it has to postpone its plan to democratize the ex-Soviet states and have to feel contented with the free trade which Asian nations are going to promote through opening land routes with Europe. Revival of Silk Road is something that is going to bring the east and west closer. None but the SCO has the required resources to make this dream a reality.