Pakistan keen to play enhanced role after winning full SCO membership
The prevailing tension between China and India may cast negative impacts on the perfromance4 of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In this regard, Indian policies aiming territorial regional and regional leadership is posing serious threats to working relationship among the SCO member states.
SCO aims strengthening friendly relations amongst states, maintenance of peace, stability and security in the region, building a new, just and rational international political and economic order, joint efforts in combating terrorism, extremism, separatism and the menace of narcotic substances.
The member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) cover more than three-fifths of Eurasia and are home to a quarter of the world’s population. SCO membership, as well as observer and dialogue partner status, must go through a unanimous voting mechanism to be successful. Full members can exploit the SCO’s consensus-based decision-making to veto SCO activities like widening membership, which they do by calling for further studies.
This fickle expansion system has left the organization at near continuous loggerheads on the issue of India and Pakistan for the past several years. The Central Asian states have feared having their power diluted by growing numbers, and China in particular has largely opposed the dual expansion plan as well, fearing it would move the group beyond its manageable control.
SCO aims strengthening friendly relations amongst states, maintenance of peace, stability and security in the region, building a new, just and rational international political and economic order, joint efforts in combating terrorism, extremism, separatism and the menace of narcotic substances. The member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) cover more than three-fifths of Eurasia and are home to a quarter of the world’s population.
India’s primary interest in the organization appears to be the anti-terror component. India has been plagued by terrorist attacks, from homegrown Islamic terror groups to Communist-Maoist Naxalites. India claims many attacks come from alleged Pakistani state-sponsored groups, a potential point of contradiction for Pakistan and the SCO’s policies.
The SCO’s regional anti-terrorism structure (RATS) is an enticing security mechanism for a country facing a large and ever growing terror threat. However, the SCO has demonstrated that it is an organization committed to not only fighting the traditional Western concept of terrorism but also to anti-revolution and pro-government intervention in insurrections, insurgency and civil war.
India has little to gain from supporting these more implicit missions and could not be counted on in China’s efforts to build a coalition should it ever choose to. Even if India were to participate in such operations, it is not likely they would perform well under Chinese leadership (assuming China even took the lead with the current levels of antagonism.
While Pakistan enjoys close relations with China and amicable relations with Russia, this is not the case for India. India is traditionally a heavily Russia-slanted security and economic partner, whose fluctuating levels of anti-China rhetoric continues to find its way into mainstream media, despite increasing India-China economic ties and its eventual SCO accession.
India’s military maintains an active anti-China posture, accounting for the Middle Kingdom in its Pakistan war fighting strategy. India also has several active border disputes with China that have been the source of increasing tension during the past three years. Disputes between SCO members are not new but the sheer scale of the dispute between India and China is not something the SCO has dealt with internally before.
The strong mutual antagonism between China and India is likely to spill over into Central Asia where each nation has competing security priorities. India has its own economic initiative through Central Asia, called the North South Transportation Corridor (NSTC). The NSTC begins at the Iranian port of Chabahar and runs through Central Asia to Russian industrial cities.
The NSTC and China’s One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR) are not mutually exclusive. However, the SCO has developed to work well with China’s OBOR Initiative and meshes with PLA’s modern prescribed mission of protecting international assets. India’s attempts to use the SCO to fulfill its own protection efforts may be antagonistic towards China’s security objectives in the region.
India could use the consensus model of the SCO to be an obstructionist as China attempts to use the SCO for its security missions, possibly creating further antagonism and rendering the SCO completely ineffective.
The latest incarnation of the “Peace Mission” takes place in the fall of 2016 and could serve as a testing ground for India’s security role in the SCO if it observes or participates in a meaningful manner.
Whether or not India takes part in future “Peace Mission” exercises as a member will be a strong indication of its intent in the organization and the prospects for China using the organization to help fulfill its own security missions.
On the other hand, Pakistan has expressed desire to strengthen its relations with the SCO after becoming a full member. Speaking at the plenary session of the SCO Summit here in Tashkent President Mamnoon Hussain underlined that signing of Memorandum of Obligations was a major step towards Pakistan’s full membership of SCO.
The President reiterated Pakistan’s firm commitment to SCO’s Charter and highlighted deep rooted cultural and historic links with SCO members. Pakistan would contribute positively in SCO’s objectives of security and economic cooperation, he added.
President Mamnoon Hussain underlined Pakistan’s contribution to global and regional fight against terrorism. Talking about the ongoing comprehensive and all-out law enforcement action Operation “Zarb-e-Azb”, the President said that it is against all terrorist groups without distinction.
He informed the participants that Operation Zarb-e-Azb has achieved phenomenal success and backbone of the terrorists had been broken and their main infrastructure dismantled.
The President said that Pakistan firmly believes that the path to regional peace and stability lies in economic connectivity and development. CPEC as a lynchpin for regional economic integration and connectivity would bring the SCO a step closer to achieving its vision of regional economic integration.
The Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs signed the Memorandum of Obligations on behalf of Pakistan. This constitutes a key step in the process for Pakistan’s full membership of SCO.
The President is leading the Pakistan delegation to the SCO Summit. Besides participating in the plenary session of the Summit, he held bilateral meetings with the Presidents of some of participating countries on the sidelines of the event.
SCO is an important organization founded in Shanghai in 2001. Its member- states include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The SCO Heads of States Council (HSC) is the highest decision-making body of the Organization. Pakistan was invited to start the process of becoming full SCO member at the Heads of State Council meeting held in Ufa, Russia in July 2015.
Pakistan is expected to sign the ‘Memorandum of Obligations’ at Tashkent which will be major step towards becoming a full member of the SCO. Prior to that, as an Observer State of the SCO, Pakistan has been making substantive contribution to regional peace, security and development.
The SCO comprises six Member States, five Observers and three Dialogue Partners. Established in June 2001, Pakistan became an Observer in SCO in 2005 and was the first country to apply for full membership in 2010.