Nisar A. Memon
04-May- 2020 – Pakistan Observer
It is understandable to keep social distances amongst the people to fight Covid-19 but not amongst the countries vowed to cooperate against terrorism, separatism and extremism – the three evil forces. These are the objectives pursued by The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) or Shanghai Pact; a Eurasian intergovernmental organization for political, economic, and security cooperation.
SCO was founded in Shanghai on 15 June 2001 by six countries. Shanghai symbolizes the political power with its history dating back to 1291, an economic showcase with gross domestic product in 2019 amounted to approximately 3.82 trillion yuan ( about US$ 541 billion), is China’s biggest and richest city, and a naval base and shipbuilding industry where Pakistan’s F-22P Frigate was built. Shanghai is the city which rivals New York or Paris in terms of modernity and boasts a blended culture of the East and the West and has come to be known as ‘Oriental Paris’.
SCO countries like other countries of the world are confronted with terrorism of tiny virus Covid-19, since the dawn of this decade. Each of the eight SCO member country; the People’s Republic of China, The Republic of India, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan; has suffered pandemic in varying degree.
The People’s Republic of China successfully came out of it and is on its feet reaching out to all Continents to help victims of Covid-19. In February 2020, the SCO rightly issued a statement supporting China’s efforts against the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In SCO a total of 248,427 Covid-19 cases and 7,290 deaths reported compared to 213,000 in just one country Spain with 24,543 deaths. There must be some inherent immunity and strengths in our people. Besides this pandemic, the region awaits peace and progress for its 3.2 billion inhabitants compared to the rest of the world population of 4.6 billion.
Pakistan experienced, within SCO, terrorism of worst kind with terrorist attacks on headquarters of its Navy, Air Force, and Army headquarters; on its cities killing civilians; but the worst was brutal attack on its innocent children in a Peshawar Public School. With political and security determination and coordinated actions, Pakistan has controlled terrorism but not completely as yet.
It has over powered extremism like one witnessed when the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad were paralyzed by brute force at Faizabad, and Lal Masjid was turned into fortress with heavily armed extremists to fight the state. foreign supported sabotage the separatism could not succeed. The need for institutional support from SCO countries will bring fruits envisaged by pioneers of the alliance. In political area too, it has not achieved political dialogue on issues and until that is achieved no progress can be made at bilateral, regional, direct or sponsored level by SCO.
History of cooperation over the years is not strong and leaves much to be desired. The last w eek’s firing by India killing innocent children and women on Kashmir Line of Control mocks the SCO. Alliance become meaningless if it is unable to achieve its goals. It is time for SCO to actively cooperate and build it rather than let it vanish in thin air.
Let the distances between its people disappear post lockdown period and a new chapter of cooperation begin. What could be a possible perspective of an ordinary citizen about SCO? It could be that after the breakup of Soviet Union in 90’s it needed to retain linkages with its former Union members and keep these markets as counter weight to EU and China the communist socialist country with its market of 1.4 bio became a natural ally for cooperation. This coincided with China opening up to world and itself needed markets therefore meeting common interests. The 6 countries of SCO had political, military and economic relations came together with India yet another huge market of 1.3 bio people with socialist philosophy and deep rooted relations with Soviet since 50s, became a member along with Pakistan in 2017.
The Chinese support to India joining may have been motivated to pursue political settlement w ith India on its borders as well as economic relations with India and supporting its ‘iron brother’ Pakistan to join in for containment of India in its expansionist design in the region. As such, with India and Pakistan the number of SCO members increased from 6 to 8. In addition, the 4 Observer States of Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia are waiting to be full members and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey are 6 Dialogue Partners in SCO.
Why would India and Pakistan join SCO? Was it just economic benefits of trade and markets? For a moment if we were to assume that it was the reason then could it be achieved w hen member countries are at war continually and markets closed to each other. Covid-19 like other pandemics of the past and epidemics like Dengue, HIV, and Influenza is a public health issue.
Alliances like: SAARC, OIC and SCO are meant to bring peace and harmony amongst its member countries to help resolve outstanding issues like: right of self determination to people of Jammu and Kashmir, cross border terrorism and any adventurism of using water as weapon instead of w ater for development. We need to rise beyond the rhetorics and its time the government and its several think tanks unroll their plan to strengthen SCO.
The writer is former: federal minister and senator