On the impact of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
Source photo: www.fondsk.ru
In the second half of January, the official Minsk expressed its readiness to accelerate the implementation of international legal procedures for Belarus’ accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a full member. This was stated by Head of the Asia, Africa and Latin America Department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Igor Bely, who participated in the ceremony of signing the protocol on January 17 following consultations between authorized representatives of the SCO member states and an authorized representative of Belarus.
It is common knowledge that Belarus is interested in joining the SCO, supports its goals and operating principles, and believes that participation in this integration association will help enhance the republic’s international status and authority. As far back as on December 9, 2005, the executive secretary of SCO received an official application of the Republic of Belarus for the status of observer in the organization. Since 2010, Belarus has been a partner in the dialogue, and since 2015, it has had the status of an official SCO observer. The decision to start the admission procedure for Belarus to the organisation was made at the meeting of the Council of the Heads of the SCO Member States in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) in September 2022.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation itself was established in 2001 by six states – Russia, Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The purpose of the organisation is to stabilise the situation in Central Asia and other regions of the world, strengthen friendship and good neighbourliness and develop cooperation in political, scientific, economic and other fields.
The priority tasks of the organisation is cooperation in the field of security and elimination of threats from extremists and terrorists in Central Asian region. Another major task of the Shanghai Organization is to create conditions for the development of economic partnership in the region. Within the framework of bilateral and multilateral cooperation its members increase their commodity turnover and mutual investments, developing industrial partnership.
It should be noted that the idea of establishing this organization came to Moscow and Beijing when the US, as the last and the only world superpower, announced the creation of a new global system. Russia, which lost the cold war and lost its status as a superpower, began to gain strength again. China, for its part, needed a like-minded partner in its economic confrontation with the West and Japan. Participation in SCO also made it easier for China to control its own long border, which is over 7,000 kilometres long. With the creation of the SCO, Beijing was able to shift its focus to other important issues, such as the regulation of its thriving national economy.
It is noteworthy that in 2005, when three major Asian powers, Iran, India and Pakistan, were accepted as observers to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the United States also expressed a desire to become a member. However, the members prudently declined to cooperate with Washington at that time.
Now, against the backdrop of worsening relations with the United States, the structuring and possible expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has become important for both Beijing and Moscow. In the run-up to the recent (September) SCO summit, some Western media noted that the Russian and Chinese leaders were closer than ever to creating an “anti-Western coalition”. By September 2022, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation would cover roughly 60 per cent of Eurasia, 40 per cent of the world’s population and more than 30 per cent of global GDP.
An agreement has already been signed to grant dialogue partner status (a precursor to observer status) to Egypt. Similar decisions are pending for Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with Bahrain and the Maldives claiming the status. Moscow and Beijing are trying to outline the sphere of their possible political influence or partnership. And the organisation could conceivably become quite influential in the near future if its area, population and economic potential are taken into account.
Eight nations are now full members of the SCO: Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Belarus and, with a high degree of probability, Iran, which applied to the SCO secretariat for membership as early as March 2008, are being added to these states. Afghanistan and Mongolia (and so far Iran) already have observer status. Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Nepal have the status of dialogue partners, with the accession of Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
According to a number of researchers, the 21st century is the century of Asia, and many globally significant political processes will take place in this part of the world. The role of Asia in the future world order is growing, and an organisation consisting mainly of Asian countries can confidently assert itself as an influential participant in international politics. Europe also understands it, and the inclusion of Belarus, located in the centre of the continent, in the organization is just one of the proofs of this fact.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s importance is obvious today, especially if you pay attention to the commodity turnover of its member and observer states. At the same time, it is still premature to talk about increasing the external influence of the SCO without its structural design and strengthening of the treaty base. However, judging by the activity of Moscow and Beijing, the SCO will expand, develop and strengthen. And perhaps soon we will witness the formation of a new bloc as a counterbalance to the United States.
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