16th Meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government, Sochi Russia

SCO member states to consolidate efforts for lasting peace, stability & economic prosperity

The 16th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Government (CHG) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) recently took place in Sochi, Russia. It was attended by the Prime Ministers of all SCO member states except India, which sent her Foreign Minister to the meeting. The list of attendees included Prime Minister of China Li Keqiang, Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Prime Minister of Tajikistan Kokhir Rasulzoda, Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Sapar Isakov, Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulla Aripov and Foreign Minister of India Sushma Swaraj.

This is the first meeting of the SCO’s heads of governments in which Pakistan is participating as a full member, having assumed the position back in June, last year. The meeting intends to focus on the strategy, prospects, and the priorities of the SCO’s developmental cooperation.

The meeting was chaired by the Prime Minister of the host country, Dmitry Medvedev. Pakistan and Russia agreed on forging a long-term, multidimensional partnership during a bilateral meeting between the two countries’ respective prime ministers Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Dmitry Medvedev. Upon his arrival in Russia, the premier was warmly received by Deputy Governor of Krasnodar Region, who was accompanied by Qazi M. Khalilullah, the Pakistani Ambassador to Russia and other high-ranking officials.

PM Abbasi is participating in the Council of Heads of Government meeting on the invitation of his Russian Federation counterpart Dmitry Medvedev. PM Abbasi and Medvedev expressed satisfaction at the positive trajectory of bilateral relations, specifically the progress made at the 5th Meeting of Pakistan-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) held in Moscow during last month and agreed to further deepen cooperation in all fields of mutual interest.

The leaders expressed confidence that the discussions held between the delegations of the two sides at the IGC would lead to further deepening of cooperation in the fields of trade, energy, education, science and technology, industry, and transport. PM Abbasi underscored the immense potential for further cooperation between the two nations in the field of energy and said Pakistan put on priority its relations with the Russian Federation.

Both leaders exchanged views on the regional situation. They agreed on the need to continue efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, and underlined its importance. The prime minister informed his Russian counterpart about the prevailing situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) and Pakistan’s efforts to resolve all outstanding issues with India peacefully and through dialogue.

The two prime ministers expressed satisfaction at the deepening of cooperation in the field of defence. PM Abbasi extended a cordial invitation to Prime Minister of Russia to pay an official visit to Pakistan at his earliest convenience, which was accepted. He also conveyed greetings from the people of Pakistan. PM Abbasi also participated in the SCO retreat hosted by the Russian PM with his other SCO counterparts, which was followed by a plenary session of the CHG wherein he addressed the attendees.

The prime minister outlined Pakistan’s commitment to the SCO’s objectives including fighting terrorism and extremism and its sincere interest in regional peace, stability, and development. The meeting closed on a signing ceremony of decisions and a joint communiqué by the heads of delegations. PM Abbasi also held important bilateral meetings on the summit’s sidelines.

At present, the SCO comprises eight member states including Pakistan, China, Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan while it has four observer nations such as Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia. SCO also has six dialogue partners Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.

Through its objectives, the SCO hopes to build mutual trust, equality, respect for cultural diversity, and good-neighbourly relations, and aims to promote effective cooperation in political, security, trade-related, economic, and social areas.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also met his Chinese counterpart at the sideline of the SCO summit of heads of government. Prime Minister Abbasi and Li Keqiang, the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China expressed satisfaction over the overall level of engagement between the two strong friendly nations.

They agreed to continue close cooperation both within the SCO and at the bilateral level, in all areas, particularly political, economic and trade, defence and strategic, multilateral and United Nations matters. The two leaders acknowledged that the Sino-Pak partnership was an anchor of strength for the regional and global peace and stability. They underscored persistent support for each other on all issues of mutual interest.

PM Abbasi appreciated the active work being undertaken by the SCO under the current Chinese chairmanship and assured Pakistan’s complete support in fulfilling the targets set forth by China in political, security, economic, and cultural realms during its presidency. The premier congratulated his Chinese counterpart on the success of 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China and his re-election on the Political Bureau as well as that of President Xi Jinping as the party’s General-Secretary.

PM Abbasi reaffirmed Pakistan’s traditionally strong support to China on its core issues, including the ‘One China Policy’. The Chinese premier reiterated his full commitment to the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.

Li said Pakistan’s membership in the SCO would further contribute to the regional peace, security, stability, and development.He expressed happiness over finalization of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s (CPEC) long-term plan during the recently-held seventh meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) in Islamabad.

In the spirit of friendship and cooperation, the delegation heads exchanged views on the current economic situation in the region and the world, and also discussed a wide range of economic and humanitarian cooperation issues within the SCO. Subsequently, they agreed on specific measures to enhance the efficiency of cooperation in these areas.

The heads of governments of SCO member states affirmed their common interest in effectuating the outcome of the Meeting of the SCO Heads of Government Council on June 9 in Astana, and expressed their support for China’s SCO presidency in 2017-2018. They emphasised their willingness to employ the additional potential brought by India’s and Pakistan’s full membership in the SCO.

The delegation heads acknowledged the 31st meeting of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure’s Council held in Beijing and stressed the relevance of efficient practical cooperation in combating terrorism, separatism and extremism in the current international and regional climate. They observed that SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure contributes towards regional peace, security, and stability. The participants welcomed the meeting of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group at the level of deputy foreign ministers held in October 2017 and stressed the importance of supporting the efforts of Afghanistan’s government and people for settling the conflict through political consultations and dialogue, in order to restore peace, stability and economic prosperity in the state. The parties expressed support for the plan to hold the Contact Group’s meeting involving deputy foreign ministers, in early 2018 in China.

The SCO member states’ heads welcomed the successful outcome of the presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan on 15 October 2017. The heads noted profound transformation that continues in global politics and economy. In these circumstances, it is particularly important to build a multipolar and fair world order that would respond to the needs of each and every state, and develop a new type of international relations that will be based on international law, mutual respect and consideration for each other’s interests, mutually beneficial cooperation, refraining from confrontation and conflict, equal and undivided security, and the relations that will contribute to the creation of a community who all share the same destiny.

Moreover, the attendees called upon the observer states and the dialogue partners to extensively use the opportunities provided to them for expanding mutually beneficial cooperation within the SCO. In this context, the participants noted the importance of employing practical cooperation mechanisms and joining the SCO legal framework. The delegation heads stand for developing cooperation with international and regional organisations, including those dealing with economic and humanitarian cooperation issues. Therefore, it is particularly important to set up practical cooperation with the United Nations and its specialised agencies.

The heads of government of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan confirmed their support for China’s One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative. Welcoming the outcome of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May 2017 in Beijing, they backed the implementation of the outcome, through coordination of international, regional and national projects aimed at cooperation for sustainable development based on the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. The delegation heads welcomed the enforcement of the agreement between the SCO governments on favourable conditions for international road transport. They approved the outcome of the Joint Commission on Favourable Conditions for International Road Transport’s constituent meeting on 23-24 May 2017 in Beijing. The delegation heads believe that the adoption of the SCO Road Development Programme will be an important contribution to the expansion of transport links between the member states. The participating heads of SCO nations thanked Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for his hospitality and the efficient organization of the SCO Council of Heads of Government Meeting. The next SCO Council of Heads of Government Meeting has been scheduled to take place in Tajikistan in 2018.

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Writer is Staff Reporter Mélange for Europe & Coordinator Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR).