SCO membership: Success with liabilities

Baber Ali Bhatti

A few months ago, Pakistan successfully managed to secure the membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which is, undoubtedly, a significant accomplishment for Pakistan. Credit must be given to the drivers of Pakistan’s foreign policy and owes to the multitude of reasons. However, Pakistan has much more to achieve via SCO platform because this membership has not only strengthened the regional position of Pakistan but at the same time has opened up various avenues of liabilities. Therefore, this achievement needs to be capitalized further as is frequently quoted “With great power comes great responsibility”. SCO membership is significant triumph for Pakistan for a number of reasons. Pakistan and China are already enjoying amicable relations in almost all spheres especially in the economic domain. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the landmark project which is being materialized and is effectively taking this mutual relationship to further heights. China is leading the Shanghai Club and Pakistan’s inclusion in this club is the remarkable addition to Pak-China relations.
There hasn’t been any substantial economic activity or joint venture between Pakistan and Eurasian countries. This membership may provide an opportunity for Pakistan to enhance the trade volume and to launch the economic projects with Eurasian countries. This success is also being considered as economic success because through this membership, Pakistan is getting back on the right economic track. Along with that, Pakistan may boost the cooperation in the fields of transportation and tourism as these fields are still untapped in Pakistan. Eurasian countries are also considered rich for tourism. Therefore, there is a wider space for joint ventures in tourism. The SCO-membership also sends out a tacit message to the countries who have been attempting to diplomatically isolate Pakistan. The message is clear that their efforts are not going to bear any fruit in this regard. Pakistan’s inclusion in SCO was the “warm welcome” by member-states which explicitly illustrates the diplomatic strength of Pakistan. Moreover, India has also been included in the Shanghai Club which might give the chance to the two countries to sort out their bilateral issues by utilizing the SCO forum. This could also be viewed in terms of diplomatic achievement for Pakistan as it was able to secure the membership in parallel with India.
However, this achievement doesn’t come without major liabilities. Speaking at a briefing in Beijing on June 1, 2017, the spokesperson of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying said that China hoped Pakistan and India would improve bilateral relations after becoming the full members of SCO. “We hope that Pakistan and India will inject new impetus to the development of SCO.” Pakistan must share its counter-terrorism experience with SCO member-states, especially Russia and the Central Asian states, for whom ‘terrorism, extremism and separatism’ have become an imminent threat. Such sharing on part of Pakistan may boost its position in SCO. Undoubtedly, sharing of this experience might be the most refined impetus to the development of SCO. Member-states, with the help of Pakistan, may propel to build a regional structure to counter the rising terrorism in which Pakistan may assume the leading role owing to its vast counter-terrorism exposure.
When it comes to cultural realm, Pakistan has more to do than India despite the fact that it enjoys peculiar socio-cultural diversity. Pakistan needs to put in vigorous efforts where it may offer cultural exchange ventures to deepen the ties with member-states, particularly with Eurasian belt. As far as global scenario is concerned, SCO is a forum of eight member-states with two having the permanent membership of United Nation Security Council and four members are the nuclear power countries. Hence the SCO possesses the potential to influence the global order with these member states. SCO can ensure long-lasting peace and stability in the region by making joint efforts. Pakistan must endeavour to lead such efforts. Pakistan should establish an institute devoted to formulate the policies attributed to member-states. Furthermore, the institute can propose different initiatives for Pakistan that will help it play critical regional and global role. Pakistan can advance itself in club by utilizing those initiatives that may serve the region in terms of peace and prosperity. Expanding the role of SCO, Pakistan and member states may also work for peace in Afghanistan. In short, by securing the membership, Pakistan ascribed itself with greater responsibilities and it must be looking forward to fulfil these responsibilities with dedication, commitment and diplomatic vigour.
— The writer is associated with Strategic Vision Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.
Email: live.baber@gmail.com