Xi's Tajikistan visit to cement SCO cooperation

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, September 11, 2014
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Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming tour to Tajikistan will invigorate economic and security cooperation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and promote regional prosperity.

Xi will attend the 14th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO member states on Thursday and Friday in Dushanbe - the capital of Tajikistan - before paying a state visit to the Central Asian country. He will then visit the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India.

According to vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping, the SCO summit will issue documents on the organization's expansion and a resolution marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. An agreement on the facilitation of international highway transportation between SCO members is also likely.

"The (SCO) summit will certainly play a positive role in regional cooperation both economically, and in terms of security," said Sun Zhuangzhi, secretary-general of the SCO research center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Founded in Shanghai in 2001, the economic and security cooperation group consists of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan are observers. Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners.

As of 2013, the bloc had a combined economic output of over 11 trillion U.S. dollars - representing 14.9 percent of the global total - but with changing economic and security landscapes over the past decade, the SCO's quest for stability and development is still far from over, said Chen Yurong of the China Institute of International Studies.

"The summit will define how the SCO deals with threats and challenges in a new situation and come up with specific measures on security and cooperation, significant for regional stability and development," vice Foreign Minister Cheng said on Tuesday.

According to Sun Zhuangzhi, one key topic of the SCO summit is its future expansion.

"Taking new members is by all means hugely important for any international organization, for it would certainly increase the organization's influence and appeal on the international stage," he said.

The organization has always been open to new members, but expansion may not take place any time soon, he said.

Economic and security cooperation are also high on the agenda, said Chen Yurong. Economic cooperation among members is one of the bloc's top priorities.

China's trade with other SCO members during the past decade has increased from 12.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2001 to around 113 billion dollars in 2011, and China has proposed a series of strategic concepts, including the Silk Road economic belt. All six SCO members and the five observers were on the ancient Silk Road trade route.

"The Silk Road belt should be good news for Central Asia, especially landlocked countries which need access to the sea to blend into the Asia Pacific economic belt," Chen said.

Though the SCO is still a young institution, it is highly regarded among members, said Chen.

"The key is mutuality and reciprocity under the SCO framework. Just look at Central Asian economies ten years ago compared with those of today. One can see that cooperation with China has been good for them," she said.

There is more to neighborhood diplomacy than just economics: security also remains a key task for the SCO.

Last month, Peace Mission 2014, a military drill in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, gathered some 7,000 troops from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The six-day exercise featured multilateral decision-making, joint anti-terror efforts and intelligence sharing.

According to Chen, this security cooperation is important to China and Central Asian countries, as terrorist forces, separatists and religious extremist in China's Xinjiang and in Central Asia are a threat to the entire region.

The SCO summit will cultivate a "constructive force" for regional peace and common prosperity, Chen said.

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