Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
The Republic of Tajikistan now holds the chairmanship of the SCO which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the organization. Tajikistan’s government developed a comprehensive plan for its SCO chairmanship cover over 100 events, most of which will be held in Tajikistan.
Its chairmanship of the SCO is aimed at the consistent implementation of international treaties, decisions, program documents and agreements recorded in the final documents of the meetings of the Council of Heads of States and the Council of Heads of Governments (Prime Ministers) of the SCO member states for the purpose of the progressive development of the Organization.
Moreover, it will be based on the principles of equality, continuity, mutual understanding and respect for the opinion of each member state of the organization. It declared its chairmanship as: “20 years of the SCO: cooperation for stability and prosperity.”
It has certain objectives which vividly reflects its political commitment and strategic orientation to make the SCO more productive, meaningful, interactive, beneficial, participatory by strengthening friendship and good-neighborliness between the SCO member states; further development of the “Shanghai spirit”; maintaining peace, security and stability in the region; building up cooperation in trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres; strengthening the image and international positioning of the SCO; improvement of the legal framework of the Organization and expansion of interaction mechanisms.
For achieving the true spirits of the SCO which is holistic and harmoniousness Tajikistan has close liaison with other SCO member states to solve a number of tasks in the following areas of the organization’s agenda.
Tajikistan’s SCO Chairmanship has befitting and consultative political orientation for strengthening internal consolidation and mutual trust; coordination of positions on regional and international issues affecting the interests of the SCO. It planned member states and a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Dushanbe.
Right from the beginning, regional security has been one of the key elements of the SCO. Now Tajikistan’s SCO Chairmanship has very valid plans in the field of security i.e. assistance in strengthening practical cooperation in the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism, drug trafficking and cross-border organized crime; taking the necessary measures to implement the initiative of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan to create the SCO Anti-Drug Center in the city of Dushanbe. It covers both traditional as well as non-state security threats. It will host the Meeting of the Secretaries of the Security Councils, the Meeting of Defense Ministers and the Meeting of the Heads of the Competent Bodies of the SCO Member States, empowered to combat drug trafficking.
Sustainable economic development, socio-economic integration and regional prosperity are the real essence of the SCO. It has comprehensive economic road map and action plan to achieve the desired goals of its chairmanship. Tajikistan planned to elaborate the issue and adoption of the Plan of Priority Practical Measures for 2021-2022 to overcome the socio-economic, financial and food consequences of the pandemic of the new coronavirus infection in the region; development and adoption of the Concept for the creation of economic growth zones in the SCO space; assistance in promoting the issues of wide use of transit opportunities of the member states; assistance in deepening interaction between the Business Council and the SCO Interbank Association, establishing their cooperation with international financial institutions, improving the legal framework for cooperation; assistance in the development of business incubators in the SCO space in order to support start-up projects.
Tajikistan is planning to hold a Meeting of the SCO Business Council Board, a Meeting of the Interbank Association Council, an Economic Forum, a Meeting of Finance Ministers and Chairpersons of Central (National) Banks, a Meeting of Transport Ministers, a Meeting of Industry Ministers, a Meeting of Energy Ministers and a Meeting of Agriculture Ministers.
Humanity, human capital and humanitarian assistance has been cornerstone of the SCO and the government of Tajikistan desires to consolidate the true spirits of the SCO by assisting in building up interaction between research and analytical centers of the SCO member states; promoting cooperation in the field of preserving the cultural heritage of the SCO region; assistance in the development of cooperation in the field of cinematography; elaboration of the issue of adopting the anthem of the Organization during the jubilee summit of the 20th anniversary of the SCO; promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls within the SCO. It will hold a Meeting of Ministers of Culture, a Meeting of Ministers of Justice, a Meeting of Ministers of Health, a Meeting of Heads of Services of the SCO Member States responsible for ensuring sanitary and epidemiological well-being, a Meeting of Heads of Ministries and Departments of the SCO Member States involved in prevention and emergency response, Meetings of heads of tourist administrations, the SCO Cuisine Festival, the Tourist Forum, the Dushanbe SCO Half Marathon, the Forum of Mass Media Leaders and the Women’s Forum.
Although the SCO stands for strong regionalism but it is not anti-internationalism. In this regard, Tajikistan panned to further strengthen the image of the SCO in the international arena by building up practical interaction between the SCO and regional partner organizations, primarily with the CSTO, CIS, ECO, CICA and ASEAN. It desires to hold a high-level joint event on cooperation between the SCO and the UN in New York and the Meeting of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group in Dushanbe. Measures will be taken to adopt a General Assembly resolution “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization” during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.
Economics of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is versatile, dynamic, diversified and huge in terms of collective GDPs, GNPs, population and above all human capitals. The SCO member states covered nearly half of the world’s population and more than 60 percent of the Eurasian landmass, and their combined GDP accounts for more than 20 percent of the global total.
Tajikistan being current Chairman of the SCO shares a great deal of political trust and considers economic development and the improvement of people’s livelihood as priorities, and it has a strong desire to develop a productive and participatory mechanism within the SCO. It is staunched supporter of free trade and regional cooperation under the umbrella of the SCO. Tajikistan shares close trading relationships with the SCO states especially China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
Tajikistan stands for mutual trade and investment which should be expanded in scale, enlarging in scope, and has the potential for even greater regional cooperation. Moreover, being member of World Trade Organization (WTO) Tajikistan shares similar trading rules which provide it much of the common ground to be needed to develop a multilateral trading system.
Tajikistan’s believes in bilateral or multilateral regional economic and trade cooperation mechanisms established among SCO member states have laid a foundation for them to explore the potential of an SCO free trade zone. It acknowledges supportive role of the SCO for the further socio-economic integration of the Eurasian Economic Union and development of the Silk Road Economic Belt which would open up new prospects for regional economic cooperation, including a free trade zone.
Tajikistan’s SCO Chairmanship has opened a new chapter of regionalism, greater socio-economic integration, regional connectivity, sense of collective security shield. Its chairmanship is a new paradigm shift. It is working for reconfiguration of the geopolitical landscape and a shift toward a multipolar world. It is working for further strengthening of mutual cooperation, peaceful settlement of disputes and anti-terrorism.
Being prominent regional expert of Tajikistan & CIS I would like to suggest that the government of Tajikistan should try to promote culture of innovation, technological advancement and implementation of the artificial intelligence protocols in the SCO. There should be rigorous development in the field of e-governance, e-commerce, e-banking, e-payment system, e-credit facilities, e-visa and last but not least, digitalization under its chairmanship during 2021. In this regard, greater role of private sector must be encouraged.
Greater regional connectivity is the way forward which may be further strengthened by having effective and meaningful free trade agreements (FTAs), reduction of custom duties and incentivized tax regimes in the SCO. There is an urgent need to develop a functional concept of “Geo-Economy” in the SCO in which easy and smooth supplies of funds may be available for the socio-economic development. Reactivation of the SCO Bank is the need of the hour which should focus on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), social entrepreneurship, poverty eradication and further women empowerment among the SCO member countries.
Corona virus changed the geo-political, geo-strategic and even geo-economic orientation of the globe. It has been fatal which produced serious strains on regional as well as international economies too. It is pandemic which requires a collective and collaborative approach to combat it. In this regard, the Republic of Tajikistan has a golden opportunity to introduce and implement the innovative concept of “E-Health” and Health-Bank” among the SCO members which would be first line of defense for all the member countries.
Food and energy security is the base of modern human civilization and the chairmanship of Tajikistan should take concrete steps to secure it. Proposal of formation of a “Food & Energy Bank” may be right step in right direction. Reactivation of regional energy projects should be initiated as soon as possible.
There is vast opportunity in service, financial and tourism sectors among the SCO. Concept of the Smart-tourism having ecofriendly spirits should be promoted among the SCO. Cultural diplomacy is the need of the hour which may be further strengthened with the help of cultural diversity by forming a “Cultural Bank” for promoting spirits of tolerance, interfaith harmony, preserving cultural treasuries and holding trans-regional cultural events.
The Republic of Tajikistan is the prime example of women empowerment,, during its chairmanship it may suggest to establish a “Woman Bank” for further strengthening of women empowerment drives in all the SCO member states and eradication of gender discrimination.
Climate change is a serious threat for human existence on the earth which has multiplier socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic consequences too. To overcome the increasing carbon footnotes and emission of the dangerous gases, there is an urgent need to build a “Climate Bank” among the SCO member states and chairmanship of the Tajikistan should float this noble idea which is very much functional.
To conclude the development of a single effective transit system, including electronic document flow, guarantee mechanisms and the ability to monitor the movement of goods, can play a contributory role in the further development of various regional mega projects like CASA-1000, BRI and even the CPEC.
President of the Tajikistan H.E. Emomali Rahmon has a great vision to revolutionize the macro-economy of the country by pursuing diversified but integrated policies of massive industrialization, green energy, innovation, artificial intelligence reducing the dependence of the country’s economy on agriculture and current Chairmanship of the SCO would provide it befitting propositions to achieve the desired goals of socio-economic prosperity and sustainable growth in the days to come.
The Writer is the Director: Geopolitics/Economics
Regional Expert: Tajikistan & CIS
Member Board of Experts: The CGSS