China has always favoured close ties with its neighbours and promotion of regional harmony. In its attempt to stabilise Central Asia, it engaged with the newly formed states after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and successfully negotiated border settlements. It did not seek to expand its influence in the region at the expense of a weakened Moscow, but worked alongside the Russians in order to ensure effective diplomacy. Mutual cooperation between these countries led to the formation of Shanghai Five in 1996, that later became Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2001.
The SCO embodies the desire of its member states to resolve regional issues collectively. The organisation is geared to promote goodwill between its members through interaction and consensus building. Focusing solely on security issues in the beginning, states began to utilise this forum to extend economic cooperation in early 2000s. With the launch of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, the significance of SCO in regional diplomacy is likely to increase manifolds as all its members are part of China’s economic expansion plan. This week, the Chinese newspaper, Global Times, highlighted that OBOR has been well-supported by SCO and Pakistan’s entry will encourage more countries to join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC). Pakistan, along with India, is expected to become full member of SCO in the next summit taking place in June 2017.