Can China’s SCO Bring Regional Integration in Asia?

By Faika Kabir

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) formally Shanghai Five emerged in the arena of global politics in 2001. SCO was solely an initiative of China, which the country proposed in 1996. The major objective behind the establishment of SCO was economic development.
With changing world order and globalization, the decision and policy making of states are now generally driven by economy, not security. Geo-economics rather than geo-politics is more significant in the contemporary international community. Therefore, SCO was formed to promote economic integration and regional cooperation. The rationale behind this model came from the belief that economic security brings political stability. So, states like China urged to initiate programs to promote economic development, not only within their own country, but in the entire Asian market.
SCO member states or the regional stakeholders perceive SCO as awindow of opportunity to combat security threats, and acquire peace and sustainable development. SCO envisions a larger role for Asia in changing world order. Considering Central and South Asia to be important emerging economic regions, SCO is diversifying its membership. The SCO is expanding its focus far beyond the Eurasian belt, which includes military security, regional trade, cultural exchanges, and addition of new members like India and Pakistan.
Moscow stated that the inclusion of India, world’s largest democracy, into SCO reflects the emergence of a polycentric international community, where multiple powers compete and cooperate for economic prosperity. China’s Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping asserted that the admission of India and Pakistan in the SCO will help the two South Asian states to reduce their differences and cooperate more.
SCO could serve as a platform for conflict resolution. This multilateral forum could enable the two warring states to set aside their conflicts, and instead focus on bigger common problems like the development of regional infrastructure for regional stability.
The SCO did make some progressive developments in improving the Indo-Pak relations. The recent announcement made by the two south Asian states that both countries would be participating in joint military drills for the first time in their history was a positive first step. Joint military exercises will help enhance border security. And this cross-border cooperation can also help strengthen military alliances, in order to fight common threats like terrorism.
Iran is also set to join SCO after its nuclear deal. If Iran becomes a member of SCO, the international organization will not only represent half of the world’s population, but will also control world’s largest oil reserves. India can play a strategic role in the supply of energy from Iran to China, in return Chinese can provide trade and infrastructure assistance to India. Also, Indian inclusion will enhance Indo-Chinese cooperation on terrorism and restructuring of Afghanistan.
At present, another main focus of the SCO for Asian strategic stability is to draft a framework to bring stability in Afghanistan. International community look at Afghanistan as an untapped market, sustainable peace in this country is essential to strengthen Asian security and trade.
Promotion of peace and economic prosperity in Asia are the major objectives of SCO, because the organization is well-familiar with growing economic trends. For sustainable peace and economic prosperity of Asia, China firmly believes that regional integration is a must pre-requisite, and for the fulfilment of regional integration, SCO can play a far wider role with more prospects.–By Faika Kabir

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