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MIRZA KASHIF BAIG

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic, international security and defense organization. It is the world’s largest regional organization in terms of geographic extent and population, covering approximately 60% of the territory of Eurasia, 40% of the world’s population and more than 30% of global GDP. The SCO is the successor to the Shanghai Five, which was established in 1996 between the People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. On June 15, 2001, the leaders of these countries and Uzbekistan met in Shanghai to announce a new organization with deeper political and economic cooperation; The SCO Charter was signed on 7 July 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003. Its membership has since expanded to eight states, with Pakistan and India joining on 9 June 2017. Several countries are involved as observers or partners in the dialog. The SCO is governed by the Heads of State Council (HSC), its highest decision-making body, which meets once a year. The Council of Heads of State is the highest decision-making body in the SCO. This council meets at the SCO summits, which are held annually in one of the capitals of the member states. Due to their governmental structure, the Prime Ministers of the parliamentary democracies of India and Pakistan attend the SCO Council of Heads of State summits, as their responsibilities are similar to those of the presidents of other SCO countries. The current Council of Heads of State consists of:

  • Xi Jinping (China)
  • Narendra Modi (India)
  • Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (Kazakhstan)
  • Sadyr Japarov (Kyrgyzstan)
  • Shehbaz Sharif (Pakistan)
  • Vladimir Putin (Russia)
  • Emomali Rahmon (Tajikistan)
  • Shavkat Mirziyoyev (Uzbekistan)

The main goals of the SCO are to strengthen mutual trust and good neighborly relations between member countries; supporting effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy, science and technology, culture and education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection and other areas; joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region and move towards the creation of a new, democratic, just and rational political and economic international order. The SCO is based on the Spirit of Shanghai and upholds its internal policy based on the principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equal rights, consultation, respect for cultural diversity and aspiration for common development, its external policy is conducted in accordance with the principles of non-alignment, non-targeting and openness. SCO provides the opportunity to work together and increase bilateral and multilateral trade. Especially after completion of CPEC could increase trade volume. Therefore, new opportunities for businesses and economic development are expected for Pakistan. The SCO is certainly the solution to Pakistan’s energy crisis, as is the SCO characterized by holding together energy producers including Kazakhstan, Russia and Iran and Uzbekistan as well as energy consuming states such as China, Pakistan and India. Therefore, when working together with energy producers and consumers, Pakistan could learn to manage its resources and ensure sustainable development. Access to Central Asian markets would be easy for Pakistan and other countries import and export frequency will increase. Pakistan already has bilateral relations with Central African Republic and full membership of SCO will help Pakistan to strengthen it relations, will enable Pakistan to strengthen its trade. Pakistan is also a member Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) (Nakao, 2017). Alas, this forum thrives on Karachi and Gwadar port features, but geographic restrictions stopped the Central African Republic’s direct connection with Pakistan. As Gawadar port is operational, Pakistan can convince all SCO members to join CPEC and become part of international trade by sea. Pakistan’s geopolitical significance coupled with CPEC allows Pakistan to benefit greatly from SCO, however, this doesn’t sit well with India and it continues to sabotage Pakistan’s relations with SCO members through misinformation campaigns and fake media narratives. ┬áRecently, EU DisinfoLab published an investigative report that highlighted that the Asian News International (ANI), a popular Indian news agency, was involved in spreading fake news and narrative against Pakistan and China. In doing so, India seeks to ensure Pakistan’s absence from the 23rd Shanghai Cooperation Summit (SCO) being held in India. By misrepresenting visits of Pakistan’s high-ranking officials to the USA, India seeks to instill resentment in SCO members, Particularly Russia and China, against Pakistan. India’s fake media campaign is constantly trying to build the narrative that Pakistan is aiding Ukraine against Russia in the ongoing war whereas Pakistan is only trying to protect its own national interests and avoid becoming part of any foreign war. ┬áThe SCO members need to understand that the challenges faced by Pakistan are real and should avoid falling prey to this Indian-sponsored propaganda. On the other hand, Pakistani government should sense the winds of change and should undertake confidence-building measures to overcome trust deficit. Furthermore, being a sovereign country, Pakistan’s right to an independent foreign policy should be respected and any measures taken to safeguard the country’s national interests should not be misunderstood.

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