At its annual summit in Tashkent, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) announced India and Pakistan are now full members of the security grouping. This was the first time the organization admitted new members. On June 14-15 this year, all SCO members are set to meet again at its 19th Summit of Heads of State in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek.
This time around however, the upcoming SCO summit is faced with a unique set of challenges. When the decision to make India and Pakistan full members of the SCO was first revealed, including two nuclear states in the forum that have already fought three wars against each other was argued to be a huge security risk. The incentive behind the decision was clear: if both India and Pakistan are part of the forum the SCO could provide a platform to settle future disputes or conflicts.
China’s relationship with Pakistan and Russia’s with India was cited as one of great significance in any attempts by the organization to reduce tensions in the troubled India-Pakistan dynamic. It was also considered that if Pakistan was to be the only SCO member, this risked isolating India which many observers argued could be a far greater threat to security and stability in the organization and the region at large. Regardless, the inclusion of both countries was received with some skepticism.
There are some reports that SCO may be looking to expand even beyond security issues now, and also focus on trade and finance. The Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for establishing an SCO development bank, and hinted that China may also be interested in pursuing a free trade agreement (FTA) within the organization. As the SCO looks towards initiating a second round of expansion, regional observers will be paying close attention to SCO’s ability to fulfill its immediate responsibilities with respect to containing conflict between its existing members.
Ahead of Summit, Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states met there in Bishkek and observed the SCO is steadily developing as a stable platform for promoting understanding, trust-based dialogue and equitable cooperation between the member states. The SCO is becoming an influential participant in international relations and is making tangible contribution to the maintenance of security and stability in the region.
In the run-up to the SCO Heads of State Council meeting in Bishkek in June 2019, the ministers reviewed the priority goals of upcoming SCO activity and discussed major international and regional issues. They approved in principle the drafts of the Bishkek Declaration by the Heads of State of the SCO Member States and the Press Release on the Results of the SCO Heads of State Council Meeting.
The meeting was convinced that in conditions of deep transformations in global politics and the economy, the priority goal is to create a multi-polar world arrangement that meets the interests of each and all states and relies on the norms of international law and principles of consideration for each other’s interests, multilateralism, equal and indivisible security and the renunciation of confrontation and conflict. They noted the topicality of the initiative to build international relations of a new type based on mutual respect, justice, equality and mutually beneficial cooperation, and of forming a common vision of the concept of creating a community with a single destiny for the human race.
The Council emphasised the need to observe the principles of the UN Charter and other standards of international law, which are primarily aimed at maintaining peace and security, developing state-to-state cooperation, consolidating independence and sovereignty and ensuring equality and the right to choose their own political, socio-economic and cultural development. These are principles of mutual respect for territorial integrity and the inviolability of borders, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes and non-use of force or threat of force.
The Foreign ministers noted the intention of the Republic of India, the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Tajikistan to seek representation as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the efforts of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Uzbekistan to become members of the UN Human Rights Council. The ministers praised the results of the high-level special event “UN-Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Cooperation to Strengthen Peace, Security and Stability” held by the Kyrgyz Republic in New York on 27 November, 2018.
The meeting noted the need to step up efforts to improve the architecture of global economic management and develop trade, economic and investment cooperation. Emphasising that the WTO remains the key universal venue for discussing the multilateral trade agenda, they supported joint resistance to any manifestations of unilateral protectionism and active cooperation with a view to forming a global economy of a new type and strengthening the multilateral trade system that is inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory and based on rules.
While resolutely denouncing terrorism in all of its forms and manifestations, the ministers support the creation of a united global anti-terrorism front with the UN playing a central coordinating role, consistent implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and attainment of consensus on the adoption of the comprehensive convention against international terrorism. They pointed to the importance of consistent implementation of the provisions of the Code of Conduct Towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism by its signatories (New York, 28 September, 2018).
The ministers welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation between the SCO RATS and the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (Bratislava, 25 March, 2019). The ministers noted the holding of the high level conference International and Regional Cooperation in Countering Terrorism and Terrorism Financing Through Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organised Crime. (Dushanbe, 16-17 May 2019.
They emphasised that global challenges and threats terrorism, separatism and extremism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal drug trafficking, organised crime, cybercrime, unsettled regional and local conflicts, disproportionate development, instability on the food markets and climate change require the heightened attention of the international community.
The Foreign ministers noted that the unilateral and unlimited buildup of missile defence systems by individual countries or groups of countries inflicts damage to international security and destabilises the world situation. They consider any attempt to ensure one’s own security at the expense of the security of other states unacceptable. They emphasised that keeping outer space free of weapons and an arms race meets the interests of all of humanity.
They were convinced of the importance of joint efforts to counter threats to biological security, prevent weapons of mass destruction from getting into the hands of terrorist groups, to work out international legal standards establishing reliable guarantees of non-deployment and non-use of any types of weapons in space, and develop an international convention to counter acts of chemical and biological terrorism.
The meeting confirmed the importance of preserving and fulfilling the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear programme and urged all participants to strictly abide by their commitments to ensure its full and effective implementation. The ministers considered it necessary to counter the use of information and communication technology, above all the internet, for undermining the political, economic and public security of the member countries, as well as for promoting the ideas of terrorism, extremism and separatism. They opposed discriminatory measures under any pretext obstructing the development of mutually beneficial international cooperation in the digital economy and communication technology.
The council welcomed the adoption by the 73rd UN General Assembly of the resolutions on “Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security” and on countering the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) for criminal purposes.
They urged all UN member states to cooperate with a view to drafting, under UN aegis, the rules of the responsible conduct of states in the information space and an international legal document on combatting the use of ICT for criminal purposes. The ministers welcomed the adoption by the 73rd UN General Assembly of the Resolution on Enlightenment and Religious Tolerance (New York, 12 December 2018).
The ministers confirmed that the SCO member states that are signatories to the NPT Treaty advocate strict adherence to its provisions and they intend to closely cooperate on the preparations for the 2020 Review Conference of the state parties to this treaty. The meeting came out in favour of developing cooperation among the SCO member states in countering climate change. In this context, they noted the agreements on the guiding principles of implementing the Paris Agreement that were adopted by the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Katowice.
The Foreign ministers praised the efforts of the government and the people of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to develop a peaceful, stable and economically prosperous state that can be free from terrorism, extremism and drug crime. They supported a continuation of the international efforts, with a UN central coordinating role, to facilitate a political settlement and peaceful process under the guidance and with the participation of the Afghan people themselves. In this context, an important role is attached to further cooperation in various multilateral formats, including the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, the Moscow format of talks, etc.
They were positive about the results of the regular session of the Contact Group (Bishkek, 19 April 2019) and decided to submit for consideration by the heads of state a proposal to sign a roadmap for further action of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. They also noted the intention of the Republic of Uzbekistan to hold the Eighth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) in Tashkent in the latter half of 2019. Meeting reaffirmed the common position of the SCO member states on the need to settle the situation in Syria by way of dialogue based on its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
They believe that cooperation in the Astana format has created the necessary conditions for implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254, promoting a political settlement under the guidance of the Syrians with a view to searching for solutions that meet their own interests. In this context, the ministers emphasised the importance of continuing the international efforts to help Syria’s post-conflict recovery.