The Shanghai Cooperation Organization–  Interaction for the sake of prosperity

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Sirodjidin Aslov
Declaring the foundation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on the dawn of the new Millennium, the states-founders made indeed important strategic choice, inaugurated the beginning of the transition of our interaction in the phase of a new development that meets the challenges and tendencies of the modern era. It was appropriate and adequate response to the threats of the XXI century.

The establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, first of all, was inspired by the activity of “the Shanghai Group of Five”, established on the basis of the Agreements between the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan and the People’s Republic of China on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field in the Border Area, dated 26 April 1996 and on the Mutual Reduction of Armed Forces in the Border Area, dated 24 April 1997.

In the conditions of dynamic development of political multi-polarity processes, economic and informational globalization, the cooperation on settlement of border issues has moved to another level of cooperation – promotion of effective joint use of the opened up opportunities and countering the new challenges and threats.

Ensuring regional security, combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, illegal drug and arms trafficking and other criminal activities, promoting the further development of trade-economic and humanitarian cooperation and rapprochement of the peoples of the six countries, who for many centuries of common history have become good neighbors and friends have been identified as priorities for the SCO.

With granting the status of observer and dialogue partner to many states concerned, it moved up to another, more qualitative level. The SCO has also been granted the status of observer at the UN General Assembly, which is the evidence of recognition of its high authority in the international arena.

During the period of its existence, the SCO, becoming an important factor of international life and dynamically developing international organization, has established itself as one of the most effective, promising, important and necessary multilateral instruments of cooperation, promoting an atmosphere of trust and predictability, good neighborliness, constructively searching for mutually acceptable approaches to solving problems of regional security and economic development issues.

Central Asia is part of the global community and for ensuring its security, particularly in view of the rapidly developing globalization processes, the sub-regional, regional and global factors should be taken into account.

One of the main problems today is the fact that the region is seriously threatened by activities of international terrorist organizations. Meanwhile, it is considered by them, mainly, as the immediate area for committing all kinds of subversive activities.

Security issues in our region have a special and enough complicated character and the countries of the region should promptly adapt to the rapidly transforming geopolitical environment, establish practical mechanisms of implementing the development strategy of the SCO, in order to promptly and adequately respond to modern challenges and threats subsequently.

Today, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is one of the key structures of the region in countering the threats of terrorism, separatism and extremism. The important projects, including the fight against information security threats of political and terrorist nature, are implemented in the framework of the Organization. Today, a lot are being done for further strengthening and improving the activities of the Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure of the SCO.

The political and military situation in Afghanistan remains tense. Only lately the processes started to take place aimed at creating the constructive international dialogue. The existing internal political balance of power is observed only in major administrative cities, which in its turn affected by the activities of terrorist groups.

As it is known, the decade of transition is coming to an end in Afghanistan. In this regard, the continued implementation of the commitments, undertaken by the international community, is a key factor for preservation and enhancement of the success in social, political and economic fields achieved in this country.

Another threat which has a significant impact on the necessity of taking practical measures to ensure the security problem is illegal drug trafficking. It should be noted that at the present time drugs are the weapons of the selective action that could destroy the whole countries from within.

It will not be possible to ensure security in Afghanistan and in the region on the whole without the eradication of terrorism and radicalism. This problem requires comprehensive solution by all countries of the region. Tajikistan, in its turn, is actively participating in the confidence-building measures in the fight against terrorism in the framework of the Istanbul process.

Tajikistan considers the development of the necessary measures for consolidation of efforts of the international community in countering terrorist groups and illegal drug trafficking as its foreign policy priority.

The Republic of Tajikistan is actively involved in the economic rehabilitation of Afghanistan. There are a number of power transmission lines between the two countries. The last of them is a 220 kW power transmission line from the Tajik “Sangtuda-1” HPP up to the Afghan city of Pul-e-Khumri, which was commissioned in late October 2011 and provides an opportunity to deliver up to 2,5 billion kW/h electricity per year to a number of cities in the Northern provinces of Afghanistan, up to Kabul.

In Tajikistan the SCO has proved itself to be an effective and leading international organization. The public shows a great interest in participation of Tajikistan in the Programme of multilateral trade and economic cooperation, as well as in the prospects of regional integration and cooperation within the SCO framework.

It should be noted that the economic component of cooperation is of vital importance for the Republic of Tajikistan. With the foundation of the SCO, in fact, the talk about the revival of the “Great Silk Road” came into practice. With the development of technology, transport and communication, the region of Central Asia is gradually regaining its historical position as a bridge between East and West, stimulating investment opportunities.

Considerable assistance was the decision of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the allocation of preferential export credit for the SCO Member States in the amount of 900 million US dollars, the 680 million US dollars of which have been allocated to the Republic of Tajikistan for the construction of major infrastructure projects in the country.

 The work of the SCO on the establishment of a Transport Union, including the establishment of a common Transport Space, the most complete use of the transit potential of the SCO Member States and the existing capacity of transport engineering, the development of a unified tariff base of the SCO for railway and road transport services should be particularly noted.

 The establishment of the Transport Union in the framework of the SCO is of great importance for the expansion of transit space of all countries of the region and is a strategic bridge for expansion of economic ties between Europe and Asia.

A few years ago a new term was introduced in the international political lexicon – the “Shanghai Spirit”. Despite certain differences in the potential, economic development and culture of the SCO Member States, mutual trust, respect and interest, equality in communication, joint desire for progress serve as an important pillar for the development of the Organization. All these factors are the key components of the “Shanghai Spirit”. Namely in this spirit the SCO summits and various events of the Organization are convened.

If one takes into account that the countries of Central Asia, China and Russia have ancient customs and traditions, rich history, then we can say that the cultural-humanitarian cooperation of the SCO Member States opens the path for the development of the dialogue of civilizations.

More and more joint cultural events are being held year after year and their programmes are becoming richer. In this regard, the attention paid by the Heads of States to the issues of cultural and humanitarian cooperation is of great importance.

In the development of humanitarian cooperation an important role is also played by the SCO Forum. At the inauguration meeting of the SCO Forum, held in May 2006, in Moscow, there were adopted its Rules of Procedure and Work Plan. The Forum is comprised of one authoritative scientific institution from each Member State of the SCO. These institutions have granted the status of the National Research Centre of the Organization.

As it is known, at the meeting of the Council of Heads of the SCO Member States on 13 September 2013 in Bishkek, the Republic of Tajikistan took over the chairmanship in the SCO and on 12 September 2014 by hosting the SCO Summit in Dushanbe in a proper manner and at a high note concluded its one-year chairmanship in the Organization.

The SCO summits, held in Dushanbe, had their historical significance. An important step in transformation of the “Shanghai Group of Five” into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was taken in July 2000 during the Dushanbe Summit of the “Shanghai Group of Five” and in 2008 during the Dushanbe summit there was made a decision on establishment of a Special Group of experts to consider the issues, related to the extension of the Organization. And finally, at the regular Summit, held in September 2014, there were endorsed important projects on the Procedure for Granting the Status of a Member State of the SCO and the Model Memorandum on the Obligations of the Countries-Applicants for Obtaining the Status of a Member State of the SCO in the new edition, aimed at facilitating the expansion of the geographical framework of the SCO.

It is worth mentioning that the chairmanship of the Republic of Tajikistan was held under the motto “Cooperation, co-development, co-prosperity”. In the framework of its chairmanship the Republic of Tajikistan has made every possible effort for this motto to find its maximum reflection in the practical implementation of issues, which are in the agenda of the Organization today, the evidences of which are the achieved agreements and the documents adopted at the Summit, as a result of more than 50 important events of different nature held during the year at the Ministerial and other levels. The success of the Organization is a merit and contribution of all Member States of the SCO.

It is gratifying to note that year after year the influence of the Organization is steadily growing in our region and in the world. It is confirmed by the significant interest showed to the Organization by many countries and regional organizations, which see the Organization as a very influential and promising regional association.

At the present time, five countries – Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan are observers in the SCO and Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka have the status of a dialogue partner. Some of these countries wish to upgrade their status in the Organization. A number of states have requested to join the Organization as the full members and there are also requests from the dialogue partners regarding the upgrading their status to the level of observer.

During the chairmanship of Tajikistan interaction with the Observer States has noticeably intensified. Thus, during the recent period the first meeting of the national coordinators of the SCO Member States with the authorized representatives of the Observer States was held in the SCO Secretariat, and in the Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure there was held the first Conference with the participation of counter-terrorism agencies of the Observer States.

Taking into consideration the existing situation in the region, the establishment of an effective and reliable system of regional security becomes one of the urgent tasks for the Republic of Tajikistan. In this regard, further strengthening and expansion of cooperation in the framework of the SCO meets national interests of our country. The analysis of expert assessments demonstrates that cooperation between the Member States of the Organization goes beyond the scope of issues of security and normalization of the situation in the border area. There have been gradually identified other promising areas of cooperation. The Republic of Tajikistan is interested in intensifying its activities in all spheres of interaction in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Sirodjidin Aslov is the Minister of Foreign Affairs

of the Republic of Tajikistane