|Russian Presidency in SCO|
Last year in June when Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit held in Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, founder member Russian Federation assumed the next SCO presidency. A decision was reached to organize highest apex forum of Heads of States Council meeting of SCO Member states in the beautiful Russian Ural city of Chelyabinsk on July 22-23, 2020. During this period of presidency, Russian Federation chalked out important initiatives meant to contribute towards regional and multilateral strength within the framework of the organization. After assumption of the SCO presidency, Advisor to the Russian President met with the Secretary General of SCO to finalize a yearlong action plan for Russia’s presidency inorder meritoriously implement the planned goals. Through the strength and enacted compact framework with strong system of consolidated mechanism put forward for the inclusive development and cooperation amongst state, SCO has outshined many other regional groupings. Established as SCO in 2001, as a successor to Shanghai Five, will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. The forum has eight permanent member states including China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan while Belarus, Iran, Magnolia, Afghanistan are observer states. There are six countries which are dialogue partner countries including Armenia, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey. Russia will be in the limelight throughout this year as the country will host major international events including the SCO Summit, BRICS Summit, Cancer Control Summit 2020 and SCO Business Council meeting. During this period of presidency, Russia will also invite all SCO member states to be part of the grand celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Second World War. The ongoing challenging times as the COVID-19 pandemic is slashing the world’s social, economic and political fabrics, SCO forum under the ongoing presidency of Russian Federation is offering a favorable time to build a collective and effective humanitarian response mechanism to meet this challenge together.
A comprehensive a yearlong action plan has been devised by the Russian Federation to effectively implement the aims and objectives outlined in the entire framework of work during the presidency. There are more than 90 different items that are blended together for the collaboration in the sectors of security, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian affairs. During this presidential period within the SCO framework, Russian Federation will provide support in consolidating the entire efforts of SCO and its members states hence promote the integration of the SCO in the regional framework as well. Russia has also chalk out plans to provide effective platform like that of inter-parliamentary track for the SCO to host the meetings of the heads of the legislative structures from the member states. This will improve the sharing of the outcomes and processes of the state structures with each other to enhance the understanding of the state bodies and government mechanisms. Russia has further marked the plan to improve cooperation among member states especially on the counter terrorism measures, extremism and drug trafficking. There is also a plan to enhance the functionality of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS). Another important step in the plan is to improve and expand entire economic cooperation base amongst the SCO states. Over the years, the trade between the SCO countries has remained far less than it should have been however after the advent of the Belt and Road Initiative and Eurasian Economic Union which are supporting and providing effective linkages. Russian throughout its period of leadership in SCO is focusing on the improvement in science and technological cooperation, innovation, improving transport. Russian presidency in the SCO is also looking for creating an equal, inclusive and open Eurasian space. Another important step that having been devised during this period is to launch inter-regional assistance mechanism to organize first Forum of Heads of Regions from the SCO member states in Russia.
Apart from improvement and substantial ongoing inter regional collaboration, Russian presidency within SCO is also planning to facilitate the cooperation among the small and medium size enterprises for better economic transformation within SCO. Russia is also putting all its efforts that during this time of the year, the role of SCO should be promoted based on the soul of the organization as Shanghai spirit of openness, mutual respect, equality, good neighborliness and respect for each other’s interest. During this time, Russia will also draw further on the creating substantial headways in building partnerships amongst the member states to promote education, protection in environment, culture, tourism and youth contacts as well. This will be at the level of the communities where people to people ties have been built up amongst the countries in order to enhance better understanding amongst the civilizations. As a responsible permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Russian Federation is also adhering to promote the collaboration of the SCO with the UN and its various important agencies as well. Alongwith this Russia has also planned to build SCO’s collaboration with other regional organizations like ASEAN, CSTO, CIS and ECO. Several important initiatives and projects have been designed to build partnership with the other groupings as well.
Over all these years, Russia has maintained a subtle balance within the SCO especially having cordial relations with all the member countries including the Central Asian Republics, China and recently added Pakistan and India. Recently, under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, Russia has played an active role in the regional and international affairs, building on to develop and rebuild its great power status. SCO is an excellent forum apart from others, where Russian interests are diversifying and covering with all the member states. SCO is also providing an effective forum for Russian Federation to create conditions that are conducive for the Federation to consolidate its foreign policy objectives in its near east and especially what historian called “backyard”. Having half of the world’s population, four nuclear powers, covering 27 percent of the world’s GDP, SCO has posed an opportunity for Russia to build its power base. Over the years due to the increasing focus of the SCO on peace and security, Russia has predominantly continued dominance to pursue its security interests in the grouping as well. Over the years, even the academic scholarship and most of the reports, opinion articles written have also focused on this aspect of Russian Federation. This time around when the Russia has assumed the presidency, we have also observed that Russia has also outlined its focus on dominance on economic and trade relations along with building relationship amongst people to people, collaboration amongst civilization, education, science and technology as well. This reflects primarily that Russia is viewing SCO as a mechanism to engage with China, Central Asian States, India and Pakistan on productive political, strategic, economic and humanitarian levels.
Since inception of SCO, has evolved through age from narrowly defined security framework to today’s SCO where it is diversifying its objectives in all the sectors and levels of the society in order to create and inclusive growth and development. Now SCO has transformed into a forward looking progressive regional organization wherein the framework is achieving institutional building, confidence building through public and preventive diplomacy. In this entire journey till this day today, Russia has contributed meaningfully. In order to further enhance Russia’s role in the grouping, Russia can also take the lead by increasing the investment in the socio-economic development, implement the key regional economic projects, and build the broader understanding amongst observer and dialogue partner. Furthermore, history will remember that how during the Russia took the lead in helping humanity in terms of dealing withnCOVID-19 to serve mankind through SCO forum.
The writer is Founder Director, Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and Secretary General Pakistan SCO Friendship Forum