Will the Shanghai Cooperation Organization become the cornerstone of Eurasian security?

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Will the Shanghai Cooperation Organization become the cornerstone of Eurasian security? 16.07.2018 13:22


June 9-10, 2018 in the International Congress Center of the Chinese city of Qingdao (Shandong Province), another summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was held. The choice of venue for the event with the participation of the heads of 10 states (including India and Pakistan for the first time as full members) has a symbolic meaning: the well-developed infrastructure of Qingdao plays an important role in Beijing's "One Belt - One Way" and its partners in the SCO.

The expansion of the organization at the expense of India and Pakistan raised questions about its capacity to act. In this regard, it should be noted that in the previous period a number of visits and interstate negotiations took place, designed, if not to eliminate, at least to smooth out the contradictions between the key states of Eurasia. In this regard, it is worth noting, first of all, the visit to China in late April of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his many-hour talks in Wuhan with Xi Jinping, as well as informal high-level Russian-Indian talks on May 21 in Sochi.

Following the talks between the leaders of China and Russia, a joint statement was adopted, according to which, "in the conditions of increasing instability and uncertainty in the world, the parties will continue to deepen consultations on strategic security issues, maintain an intensive dialogue between the foreign ministries, and increase bilateral coordination at the international profile sites. Russia and China intend to further strengthen strategic contacts and coordination between the Armed Forces of the two countries, improve existing mechanisms for military cooperation, expand cooperation in practical military and military-technical cooperation, and jointly counter challenges to global and regional security". In addition to several signed contracts, Vladimir Putin noted the "feasibility study for a broad Eurasian economic partnership" agreed by the two countries. According to him, "it is ... compatible with both the EEMP we are developing and the Chinese Silk Road initiative in its economic dimension in this case." Moscow and Beijing are also preparing an agreement on the Eurasian Economic Partnership, which is expected to be made open for the connection of all SCO countries (1).

Following the meeting, the leaders of the SCO member states approved 17 different documents, including the Qingdao Declaration, in which they confirmed the non-alternative nature of the political process as a way out of the Syrian crisis and called on all the conflicting parties to take steps to implement the agreements on de-escalation zones. The Ukrainian crisis should be settled politically on the basis of the Minsk agreements. The heads of the SCO member states called on the participants in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program to fulfill their obligations under this deal. The participants in the meeting in Qingdao refrain from open criticism of Washington's policy, which is evidently, not least, the extremely complex and contradictory nature of the current China-US dialogue. However, the change in Beijing's position on the need to expand military-political cooperation within the SCO is indicative of a lot.

The growing danger of the spread of terrorist threats dictates the improvement of mechanisms for the exchange of information on cross-border movements of militants. As you know, many immigrants from Central Asia and the adjacent Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China received (and still receive) combat experience in Syria and Iraq, and more recently are moving closer to the exit points and to the borders of China. In Qingdao, it was decided to approve the Action Plan for 2018-2022 to implement the provisions of the Treaty on Long-term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation of the SCO Member States, as well as the document on the approval of the Program of Cooperation of the SCO Member States in Countering Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism in 2019, 2021. The Anti-Drug Strategy of the SCO Member States for the period up to 2023, the Program of Action for its Implementation, the Concept for the Prevention of the Abuse of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances were approved. The issues of public health, environmental safety and counteraction to the use of information technologies for criminal purposes were not disregarded. The right words were said about the inadmissibility of trade protectionism and for a general improvement in the climate of world trade.

According to Chinese President Xi Jinping, the leaders of the SCO member states agreed to adhere to the concept of indivisible, comprehensive and sustainable security. The Chinese leader connects the dynamic and progressive development of the SCO with such areas of cooperation as mutual trust, taking into account national interests, strengthening defense and information security, coordinating law enforcement and cooperation in the reconstruction of Afghanistan; creation of powerful growth drivers within the framework of the One-Belt-One-Way Initiative; development of humanitarian cooperation; expansion of the network of all-round partnerships. The high growth rates of trade turnover between China and its partners make the movement in this direction uncontested. During the first five months of 2018, the volume of Russian-Chinese trade grew by 26.9% to more than $40 billion, and by the end of the year could reach a record level of $100 billion. Multibillion-dollar investments by Chinese companies in Pakistan's infrastructure meet a positive attitude in this country. And despite the difficult nature of Sino-Indian relations, the volume of trade between the two largest states of Eurasia is steadily growing and already in the near future can increase from the current $86 to 100 billion.

Speaking at a meeting of the Council of Leaders of the SCO States in an enlarged format on June 10 with the participation of the heads of observer countries and representatives of some international organizations, the Chinese leader stated the need for greater cohesion and mutual trust among the participants of the organization. Beijing intends to open a credit line for the partners of the SCO to the amount of 30 billion yuan (about $4.7 billion). As you know, the economic dimension of the SCO activity meets different assessments, often not the most optimistic, including in the context of the well-known "One Belt - One Way" initiative, within which cooperation develops primarily in a bilateral format. Despite the vague nature of some formulations of the final declaration and a number of documents, the SCO's ability to strengthen joint security, combat international terrorism and other threats, as well as, perhaps, military-technical cooperation, are far from exhausted. In particular, we can talk about strengthening the Regional Antiterrorist Structure, expanding the format of regular exercises "Peace Mission" and other organizational measures. In conditions of general instability, the proliferation of regional conflicts against the backdrop of progressive paralysis, the role of an institution such as international peacekeeping is objectively increasing.

The mainstream of Western press, which is unfriendly towards the SCO, suspects Moscow and Beijing, relations between which knew both ups and downs, the desire to solve the problems of Eurasian security without the participation of America. Adherence to the Russian-Chinese alliance of India, whose bilateral dialogue with China (and especially with Pakistan) is, to put it mildly, very difficult, makes it more realistic to create a system designed to ensure a peaceful settlement of territorial and other disputes on the Eurasian continent. Economic cooperation plays an important role here. And in this regard, as noted by the famous Indian diplomat and analyst M. Bhadrkumar, it is noteworthy that New Delhi seems ready to join the Chinese initiative "One belt - one way", against which they spoke earlier. In addition, participation in multilateral cooperation formats within the SCO framework (including joint anti-terrorist exercises) is able to mitigate to some extent the Indo-Pakistani contradictions. It is the SCO that provides India with unique opportunities to improve relations with its neighbors, while the participation of this largest country of South Asia in various American designs will inevitably aggravate regional contradictions.

India, Pakistan, Iran and other countries are trying to get an additional platform in the framework of the SCO for voicing their positions on global and regional issues of concern to them. Negotiations in Qingdao, marked by a special "Shanghai spirit" (the contours of political philosophy based on respect for cultural diversity, the desire for development and mutual trust, benefit and equality, on the desire to resolve contradictions through negotiation, and not power subordination) favorably contrasted with " and reeling "at the summit of the Western informal club" G7 in Canada. As you know, American billionaire leader Donald Trump was sharply criticized by his colleagues in connection with the protectionist tariffs initiated by the White House. Eventually, he refused to sign a joint document and left Canada ahead of schedule to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-no in Singapore, providing the next ephemeral "guarantees" and earning the propaganda laurels of the "peacemaker".

The influential Chinese edition Global Times writes that "Sino-Russian-Indian strategic communication and cooperation will become the basis of stability in Asia". Despite the remaining disagreements, the SCO is gradually paving the way for the formation on the Eurasian continent of a common space of security and economic cooperation.


Andrey Areshev