How Pakistan joined the SCO

By Sabena Siddiqui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 10, 2018
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Aerial photo shows the media center of the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, June 3, 2018. The media center of the 18th SCO Summit will open to journalists from both home and abroad on June 6, the organizer said on Sunday. (Xinhua/Li Ziheng)

It was at the sixth summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2006, that Pakistan's President Musharraf addressed the congregation and expressed his wish that Pakistan become a full member of the SCO. Going on to highlight the geo-strategic location and geo-economic advantages of his country, he said his country was most suitably positioned to contribute to the existing objectives of the SCO. 

Underscoring Pakistan's credentials as a future energy and trade corridor for the members of the SCO, he said, "Pakistan provides a natural link between the SCO states to connect the Eurasian heartland with the Arabian Sea and South Asia. We offer the critical overland routes and connectivity for mutually beneficial trade and energy transactions intra-regionally and inter-regionally."

Based on geographical contiguity, the countries under the SCO umbrella have increased their standing in Asia's security dynamics, stabilized their respective parts of the world and made great advances in counter-terrorism, defense and energy cooperation. Notably, the two founding members, China and Russia, were also permanent members of the United Nations Security Council while the four Central Asian members -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- had the world's largest energy resources. 

Consequently, Pakistan wanted to become part of the SCO and realize its true geopolitical and geo-economic potential as described by Musharraf. Having had observer status at that time, Pakistan also felt comfortable because of its time-tested and deep-rooted ties with China. Mainly, there were four advantages for Pakistan in joining the SCO.

Firstly, as Musharraf had described, Pakistan could be an ideal trade corridor for the SCO member countries as well as being able to further consolidate its ties with China. Years later, this concept has materialized in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is now the "flagship corridor" of the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Alongside, having attained full membership of the SCO, Pakistan has elevated the synchronicity of China-Pakistan strategic relations to another level while it also plays an important role as a key BRI country. Additionally, as the BRI is linked with specific development plans of other SCO member states as well, Pakistan has relevance in both organizations and benefits from both platforms in tandem. 

Secondly, being an SCO member provides Pakistan the opportunity to increase its trade volume and establish economic ties with the other members. In particular, access to the Central Asian countries can fulfil its energy requirements with gas pipeline projects like TAPI and IPI.  Since the SCO includes large energy producers like Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and even Iran, once it gets full membership, it is an ideal opportunity for Pakistan to sort out its energy issues and make solid arrangements for energy supplies. 

Providing a natural trade route for SCO members to access the Arabian Sea, Pakistan is also part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC). Linking its Gwadar and Karachi ports via CPEC for trade with the Central Asian members of the SCO, Pakistan can prove to be the ideal bridge for Eurasia. 

Thirdly, the SCO platform provides an ideal opportunity for South Asian neighbors, Pakistan and India, to improve their bilateral relations. Especially as the second most important article in the SCO Charter is the Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, as observed by Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, "In the charter of the SCO there is a clause that the hostility between the bilateral relations should not be brought to the organization. I believe both the countries will abide by the charter of the organization."

Not only that, the SCO Charter requires members to agree to mutual reduction of armed forces on the borders to increase trust. This clause already helped resolve issues between the original SCO members in the past. Having longstanding issues like Kashmir, distribution of waters under the Indus Water Treaty, Siachen and violations at the Line of Control, being together at the SCO Summit would also promote communication and dialogue. Considering that there has been no SAARC Summit for more than a year, increased interaction can help break the ice.

Fourthly, negotiating for peace in collaboration with other members like China and Russia will prove more effective for Pakistan, particularly in neighboring Afghanistan. Having entered into partnerships with international organizations such as the United Nations where it has the role of observer, SCO is also maintaining links with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the European Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. 

Thus, supporting multilateral mechanisms, members under the SCO umbrella have added security and influence while they also help promote regional and global stability. Having grown in number to eight members now from the original "Shanghai Five," today the SCO represents 60 percent of Eurasia, half of the global population, four nuclear powers and more than 20 percent of the world's GDP.  

Sabena Siddiqui (Twitter: @sabena_siddiqi) is a foreign affairs journalist and lawyer based in Pakistan.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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