Afghan President Hamid Karzai's participation in the annual meeting of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) last week not only demonstrated the openness of the grouping, but was also significant in terms of stepping up the regional fight against drugs.
His presence showed that, in addition to the "three threats" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, cross-border drugs crime is a major concern of SCO member states.
During the summit, Karzai and SCO member states vowed to strengthen co-operation in fighting drug trafficking.
Afghanistan has been a major source of drugs.
The country's booming drug trade accounts for a significant part of its national income. Surveys by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime show that Afghanistan is now the world's largest source of heroin.
Cultivation of the opium poppy in Afghanistan, from which most of the world's heroin is refined, jumped by more than 60 percent last year.
The UN surveys warn that the growing influence of the country's drugs mafia could pose a major threat to its national security.
As Afghanistan shares common borders with several Central Asian countries, the region has become a crucial transit route for drug smugglers traveling from Afghanistan to Europe and other parts of the world.
The fact that all SCO member states are victims of drug trafficking, which not only involves money laundering and weapons smuggling but also generates cash for terrorists and extremists, adds to the necessity and significance of greater collaboration in this respect.
To face this common threat, the SCO signed a co-operation agreement against drug trafficking of narcotics in 2004, and assisted the Afghan Government's anti-drugs campaign by setting up a liaison group with the country last year.
The SCO promised to actively take part in establishing an "anti-drugs zone" around Afghanistan and assist its economic reconstruction to rein in the country's narcotics trade.
This is a campaign which can address imperative needs and bring genuine benefits, therefore it should remain a long-term focus of regional co-operation.
These joint efforts of SCO members speak volumes about their willingness and ability to work for common interests which will in turn ensure security throughout the region.
(China Daily June 19, 2006)