The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which just concluded its summit at the eve of 17 years of its formation in China’s progressive metropolis Qingdao, appears to have come of age. The Shanghai spirit continues to guide the SCO member states, which now include Pakistan and India as well. The need to establish cooperation institutions has been reiterated as well. It was heartening to note that the host chairing the moot, President Xi Jinping, reminded the participants of the SCO charter and the treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation between the member states of the SCO, which has forged a constructive partnership featuring non-alliance, non-confrontation and not targeting any third party. In doing so, Xi Jinping reiterated that the SCO has achieved a major breakthrough in the theories and practices of international relations, created a new model for regional cooperation, and made new contribution to peace and development in the region.
The ‘Shanghai spirit’, which is a creative vision initiated and followed through by the SCO, champions mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diversity of civilizations and pursuit of common development. It transcends outdated concepts such as clash of civilizations, Cold War and zero-sum mentality. Thus, while enumerating its achievements, it is imperative to note that the SCO has opened a new page in the history of international relations and gained increasing endorsement from the international community.
SCO has enunciated the need for shared security, but denounced the concept of ensuring one’s own security while compromising the security of others. A remarkable aspect of SCO, which has been highlighted through personal example, is championing equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness between civilizations. President Xi has demonstrated the importance of overcoming cultural misunderstanding and clashes through exchanges, mutual learning and coexistence. Projects like the BRICS and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as well as the massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are examples here. AIIB has made it possible for nations with weak economies and poor infrastructure to break the begging bowl and learn to stand on their own feet by investing in infrastructure.
It has been touted that the media has shrunk the world to a “global village” but now it is being demonstrated that in the twenty first century, the New Silk Road is bringing the world even closer, shrinking distances and enabling nations to rise to their true potential through sharing and cooperation.
Interestingly, while different members of the SCO may pursue variant paths of development, by reiterating their understanding and respect of each other’s choice of development paths and accommodating each other’s core interests and major concerns, the path to success has been ensured
The journey of the SCO commenced with the Shanghai Spirit seventeen years ago but now demonstrates signs of fruition with the Qingdao Declaration, which provides the outline for the implementation of the treaty on long-term good-neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation. Interestingly, while different members of the SCO may pursue variant paths of development, by reiterating their understanding and respect of each other’s choice of development paths and accommodating each other’s core interests and major concerns, the path to success has been ensured.
The contemporary world is plagued with numerous challenges. Terrorism, extremism and separatism have been identified as three evil forces which must to be combated through a unified approach. This resolve was emphasized for the implementation of the 2019-2021 program of cooperation to meet the challenges head on by conducting the “Peace Mission” and other joint counter-terrorism exercises, and enhance cooperation on defence, law enforcement and information security.
It was also resolved that a powerful engine to achieve common development and prosperity must be constructed through heightening complementarity of respective development strategies. This will continue to advance cooperation under the principle of delivering shared benefits through extensive consultation and joint contribution, accelerate regional trade facilitation, and step up the implementation of the Agreement on International Road Transport Facilitation.
The time is ripe for forging closer ties through cultural and people-to-people exchanges. The Occident appears to have lost the focus on environment protection, but the SCO’s resolve to actively implement the outline for environmental protection cooperation has ushered a ray of new hope.
Providing the opportunities of cooperation in education, science and technology, culture, tourism, health, disaster relief and media; China has taken the lead by committing that it will provide 3,000 training opportunities of human resource development for SCO member states to enhance public understanding of and support for the SCO family.
The need to expand partnership networks of the international cooperation was also acknowledged. By intensifying exchanges and cooperation with SCO observer states, dialogue partners, and other countries in the region, as well as enhancing partnerships with the United Nations and other international and regional organisations, the SCO can contribute its share to resolving hotspot issues and improving global governance.
Thus the 18th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Member States of SCO can be deemed a success for reverberating the Shanghai spirit and adding to it the Qingdao impetus.
Delaying the merger till the very end of the outgoing national and provincial assembles’ tenure has left some gaping holes
The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF. He is a columnist, analyst and TV talk show host, who has authored six books on current affairs, including three on China
Published in Daily Times, June 16th 2018.