Four SCO problems in the light of the question of the expansion of the organization

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Four SCO problems in the light of the question of the expansion of the organization 05.09.2016 11:17

One of the main problems of the SCO is the issue of expansion. Traditionally it is considered from the standpoint of practical politics. Increasing depth appears in the process of the tightening of the dispute about the expansion of the Member States. In the discussion about expansion of a peculiar political culture of the SCO is presented, as well as well-known example of other organizations, the question of "multi-level" with the expansion of the membership. But most importantly, within the debate about the expansion begins to take shape the future of the organization - the global future (as seen by Russia) and regional future (as seen by China).

SCO, thus, stands in front of one of the major contradictions of the modern world: the collision of trends of globalization and regionalization. While the debate about these trends and their relationship are at the level of political, economic and social sciences, the SCO is faced with the need to find a practical choice in favor of one of the trends or finding modality combinations in determining the priorities of its work. Article restates the problem of enlargement of the question of practical politics in the question of finding a balance between the trends of globalization and regionalization in the future strategy of the SCO, which will permit to approve on a practical level the fundamental interests of Russia and China in Eurasia.

The Declaration of the SCO summit held in 2015 in Ufa (Russia), said: "They (the Member States) with satisfaction state the adoption of the decision to initiate the admission procedure of India and Pakistan to the SCO". However, the debate about the timing of this decision is going on; at times it even goes back to the argument about the desirability of India and Pakistan to the SCO. Moreover, the debate on this issue are outside the scope of the debate only in the categories of practical politics - they begin to affect the broader issues of the role of the SCO in the present and the prospects of its development in the future. Thus the issue of expansion of the SCO becomes interesting not only from the standpoint of practical politics, but also in research. In the course of many years of discussion on the expansion of the SCO revealed four problems: the problem of the SCO's political culture and the application of the principle of consensus, the problem of the variety of formats of participation in the SCO and the preservation of a monolithic organization, the problem of interpretation of the principle of openness, the problem of world political role of the SCO - a regional or a global organization?

It seems to us that the enlargement has become in the focus, which collected many unwritten rules and specific mechanisms for decision-making in the SCO which are often hidden from the observation. Identification of the role of these "hidden springs" will let better understand why the SCO is just like it, acts in such way, and what sets it apart from other international organizations.

In preparing this article, the authors used not only official documents and scientific publications, and the results of interviews with experts from the SCO member states, India and Pakistan, as well as the materials of conferences, which took part in 2015-2016. These events are usually held on the rules of Chatham House, which allows the use of the views expressed, without disclosing the authorship.

The political culture of the SCO:

how does the principle of consensus work?


In questioning the appropriateness of India and Pakistan admission to the SCO and arguing about this, first of all, with Russian experts, the Chinese experts approach close to the very delicate question of how to understand and apply the principle of consensus in the SCO? Consensus is still widely understood - as the adoption by common consent decisions.

The SCO Charter says that "decisions of the SCO bodies shall be adopted by agreement without voting". In this part of the SCO has become the eastern approach to the expression of the negative position of "political culture". The situation is often described in the literature on the specifics of the negotiations with the Asian partners, which in case of disagreement, do not say "no", but prefer fuzzy and vague expressions with positive negative elusive hidden meaning

The SCO tries to avoid hard negation, as well as sharp, disputes which may require its use. Although SCO Charter provides that the Member State of the SCO can express their views on specific aspects or specific issues of the decisions, but almost never the differences, even if they have not submitted to the public field.

It is believed that such a political culture helps to maintain the spirit of consensus. But is it possible to promote the issue on the agenda of the SCO, in which there is no general agreement? The practice has been established that the SCO agenda can contain such issue. As in this regard in an interview Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated: "Yes, there is a need for consensus, but the discussion must start somehow". There is quite a difficult situation: if an issue, on which there is no general agreement, falls into the agenda of the SCO, how hard disagreeing country can block it?

While the balance between order to put the issue on the agenda of the SCO, even without common agreement on it, and not to say rigid "no" is achieved simply, an issue on which no consensus could be on the agenda of the organization for a long time. Moreover, the adoption of any document mentioning the controversial issue, even in the form of declarations of intent, not a practical means of promotion in its decision. In other words, an issue on which there is no consensus can be put on the agenda, but it should remain there indefinitely, until there is general agreement.

There is already such experience in the history of the SCO. China promotes the issue of the SCO Bank. This issue is on the agenda of the organization since 2010, and the last three years is present in the final declaration of the annual summits.

For the first time it was put in the Declaration of the SCO summit in Bishkek in 2013, with this formulation: "The Heads of State noted the importance of the work of the Study of the creation of the Development Fund (Special Account) and the SCO Development Bank of the SCO and instructed to continue its efforts to promote early completion". Literally, the same wording was repeated a year later in the Declaration of the summit in Dushanbe in 2014. The wording of the Declaration of the Summit in Ufa in 2015 became even more specific: "Member States will continue to work on the creation of the Development Fund (Special Account) of the SCO and the SCO Development Bank in order to stimulate trade and investment relations in the region". That wording may seem from the phase of studying the issue moved to the implementation stage. But the reality is that there is no movement towards the establishment of the SCO Bank, as there is no consensus at this point (Russia doubt the wisdom of its creation, proposing to convert the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) of the SCO Bank, but understanding was not found). Formally, the issue remains on the agenda of the Organization.

For example, the issue of the SCO Bank can say that the organization has developed the practice, which was mentioned above: an issue on which no consensus could get on the agenda, but it cannot be definitively resolved.

It seems that China has realized Ufa Declaration of 2015 which is planned to begin procedures for the adoption of India and Pakistan, not as the beginning of the path with exactly known result and falls into the agenda on which there is no consensus, without which there cannot be a final solution.

On procedural issues the analogy can be made between the issues of the SCO Bank and expansion, but nevertheless it is clear that this is a very different question. And then there is a subtle point, partly psychological, and relevant to the political culture of the SCO.

Not only most of the members of the SCO adopted Ufa declaration so that the question of granting India and Pakistan membership in fact is resolved, and in time it will take no longer than necessary to perform the formal procedures - so India and Pakistan understand themselves, , and the entire world community, with interest at the completion of the SCO. If the issue of expansion of the SCO repeats the fate of the SCO Bank, then the whole world will look like undermining the Organization's credibility in regional and world affairs, the same authority, which all members of the organization, including China, are so proud of.

As a result, China is in a situation where it has to say rigid "no" by blocking the issue or accept the fact that the expansion will be carried forward without his consent. It appears that China feels uncomfortable in this situation. Chinese experts seem unfair and unfriendly that diplomatic game on such delicate moments of the question of expanding the SCO is moving forward.

Igor Denisov, Ivan Safranchuk, MGIMO (University) MFA Russia