XVI Meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Forum
The Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI), Islamabad hosted the sixteenth session of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Forum on May 25, 2021. The Forum included participants from SCO member states including India; Kazakhstan; China; Kyrgyzstan; Russia; Tajikistan; and Uzbekistan.
Welcoming the participants, Director General, ISSI, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said that this forum is meeting at a time of great human struggle, just as the world grapples with the Covid 19 pandemic. He said that the need for greater inter-state cooperation is even more necessary keeping the ongoing challenges in view and that this meeting can help explore greater opportunities as well. Ms. Aisha Farooqui, National Coordinator SCO, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in her welcome remarks stated that we need to enhance the understanding of our collective challenges. She said that the SCO has progressed over the last two decades and collective efforts by member states can help forge a path together for greater progress. The Secretary General SCO, Mr. Norov V. I., in his welcome remarks stated that there are many challenges for SCO members and the pandemic has taken a toll and brought in new challenges and for this, we need to develop common approaches to fight new challenges. The SCO has grown in its scope and functions in the past few years and the new challenges make it imperative for SCO to move forward.
The opening session was followed by welcome remarks by the heads of delegation from each member state. Mr. Yerzhan Saltybaev, Director, Institute of World Economy and Politics at the N. Nazarbayev Foundation, Republic of Kazakhstan stated that SCO has proved its importance as a unique cooperation platform. Mr. Rong Ying, Vice President, China Institute of International Studies, China was of the view that the SCO member states have gained astonishing achievement to maintain regional peace and security. Mr. Akhmetov Tulondievich, Director of the National Institute for Strategic Studies of the Kyrgyz Republic in his remarks hailed the support shown by the SCO states throughout the pandemic which continues to spread throughout the globe. Prof. Alexander Lukin, Director, Centre for East Asian and SCO Studies, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Russia highlighted that the organization has made tremendous achievements over the years, but much more needs to be done on the issues related to drug trafficking and economic cooperation. Ziyoi Khurhsed, Director, Center for Strategic Studies, Republic of Tajikistan observed that SCO can be utilized to make great use of scientific and expert exchange to help facilitate relevant information sharing between member states. Mr. S. Valiev, Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Interregional Studies, Republic of Uzbekistan stated that the essence of SCO rests on the spirit of mutual respect.
In the Session I titled, “SCO and Geopolitics of Eurasia: Prospects of Security Cooperation between Member States”, the speakers noted that greater regional cooperation is essential to make headways toward maintaining peace and security in the region. They agreed that, given the geostrategic location of Afghanistan, SCO members must make collective efforts to ensure that the Afghan peace and reconciliation process moves in a positive direction. To fight off the perils of pandemic, the speakers reiterated that a collective response is needed from all the member states. It can be counted as an achievement of SCO that it helped sustain the Shanghai Spirit and has given a new concept of security. In order to remove the bottlenecks in terms of political collaboration, it was suggested that consensus-based yet flexible approach should be applied.
In Session II titled, “Boosting Socio-Economic among SCO Member States”, the speakers were of the view that the organization has achieved considerable success in terms of promoting economic cooperation and, for a major development project like Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), SCO is a very useful platform. Industry, Agriculture, Transport, Tourism were flagged as different factors which are important for promotion of economic cooperation among SCO member states along with Digital Cooperation for enhancing digital economy cooperation. It was pointed out that Ecology and Climate Change must be focused on by SCO for moving towards green economy. The speakers recommended creation of working groups for in-depth discussions among SCO members.
The Forum concluded with the suggestions on improving the people-to-people exchanges among the member states along with increasing awareness on Shanghai Spirit in the SCO region. It was also proposed that a collective and robust financial framework must be put in place for undertaking development projects in member states.