The role of the SCO in countering terrorism in the Asian region« Back
The topic of my speech is related to the role of the Shanghai cooperation organization (SCO) in countering terrorism in the Asian region. As we know, the SCO includes China, which we are discussing today, also Russia and Pakistan. Moreover, after the decision to accept India and Pakistan as full members at the SCO Summit in 2017, the organization already unites half of the world's population, and its role in Eurasia and the world as a whole is likely to grow in the future. It should be noted that for China, the example of the SCO is unprecedented in the entire political history: before joining the SCO, China did not enter into a political Alliance with any state in the world.
The SCO's key areas of activity include collective counteraction to extremism and terrorism, and over the years the organization has been able to accumulate significant experience in this area. A key role in the fight against the terrorist threat in the SCO space is played by a specialized body – the SCO Regional anti-terrorist structure (SCO RATS).
Speaking about the problem of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region of China, we can single out Uyghur terrorism as one of the basic problems that China has to solve on its territory. This problem is considered by the Chinese leadership not only as a problem of the state's internal policy, but also as a threat to regional security. As already mentioned, the fight against religious extremism and international terrorism is one of the priorities of the SCO policy, and the members of this organization are in solidarity with China in countering both Uighur nationalism and separatism, as well as religious extremism and international terrorism.
Part of the Chinese state border in the XUAR runs with Pakistan, with which stable partnership relations are maintained. China sees this as an important balance for regulating relations with South Asian States, especially with India. Concerning Pakistan, China is implementing joint projects for the use of coal deposits in Pakistan, the construction and operation of the deep-water port of Gwadar (commissioned in 2007), through which China can receive oil from the Middle East. Road projects are being implemented: expansion of the highway from XUAR (Kashgar) in Gwadar, construction of the Kashgar-Gwadar railway and others.
With the rise to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a variety of radical Islamist organizations and groups began to spread even more actively both in Central Asia and directly in the XUAR itself. The threat of Islamic extremism and radicalism has become very real for China. As for Islamabad, good relations with Pakistan are of great importance for China to control the situation with Islamist terrorist and extremist groups practically on the Chinese border. In turn, Pakistan has repeatedly declared its non-involvement in the terrorist attacks committed by the Islamic movement of East Turkestan and has repeatedly expressed its intention to support the Chinese government in the fight against the militants of this movement. It is not at all profitable for Islamabad to support militants who have settled in Pakistan. For Pakistan, the XUAR is not a terrorist training ground, but a platform for strengthening economic ties with China.
Pakistan for the Chinese province of XUAR is an outlet to the Indian ocean through the Pakistani port of Gwadar, transferred by the Pakistani authorities to the management of a Chinese state-owned company. Therefore, to destabilize Xinjiang is to cut off China from Pakistan, and thus from entering the Indian ocean.
It should be noted that the SCO member states have repeatedly stressed the importance of rejecting all forms of terrorism and national separatism and the coherence of approaches in the fight against separatist and terrorist activities on the territory of their States. Today, we are discussing US interference in China's internal Affairs through the activation of separatist tendencies in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region. In this respect, the issues of sovereignty of the SCO member States are common to all the member States of the organization. Moreover, it is one of the fundamental principles of the SCO-respect for non-interference in the internal Affairs of its members and respect for their national sovereignty. State sovereignty is the most important value of international politics, which must be strengthened and defended in every possible way.
Jafar Muhammad, a political scientist, expert on policy issues in Asia (Pakistan).