SCO: A tide bringer for the region?

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The Shanghai Cooperation Organization covering the three fifth of Eurasian landmass aims to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity, promoting equality among the member states, non-interference in the internal affairs and refraining from the use of force. Moreover, SCO is covering a vast tapestry of cooperating areas including economy, security, transport, culture, disaster management and law enforcement.

Comprised of eight member states SCO has remained a seminal example of the interstate regional partnership on the Eurasian landmass . Since its establishment in 2001, it aimed to ensure the regional stability and security which is continued till day in the form of multifaceted cooperation. SCO functions on the principle of solving the pressing regional problems to ensure the promotion of the regionalism.  Despite from the skepticism SCO has a potential with its unique parameters regarding the future development.

SCO’s model of cooperation is based upon the idea of multilateralism which depicts that these partnerships are distinct from the traditional political-military alliances which involves a high level of political interdependence. Hence SCO is not an example of the economic integration in which the states delegate their significant portions of sovereign privileges to the supranational bodies.

The success of the Platform was observed in the SCO summit held at Astana in 2017 when the two archrival states Pakistan and India occupied with deep seated regional rivalry acceded to SCO as a fully fledged member. Both countries committed to strengthen and consolidate the cooperation under the umbrella of SCO. Hence, SCO brought four nuclear powers of China, Russia, Pakistan, and India on the SCO forum which makes the organization a supporting element in promoting the global strategic stability.

SCO has prioritized the regional security cooperation as an important priority. However, it is still difficult to find a common ground for the economic interests of the member states as compared to the security interests. Therefore, the area remains an arena for the future efforts rather than a practical reality.

SCO member states hold a huge market comprised of the mineral reservoirs, stable industrial base which is necessary in flourishing trade and economic cooperation. Moreover, SCO members are also signatory of multiple international agreements regarding the banking, financing, Agriculture, and tourism. Furthermore, SCO is also considering the establishment of the SCO development Bank and special account to assist and ensure the provision of the financial support regarding different projects.

The accession of Pakistan and India has increased the scope of the SCO as a world largest trans-regional organization in rapports of area, population, and the economic prospects. Moreover, this accession has also contributed to the increase of organizational influence ad authority in the region and the world. Similarly, while viewing the concrete economic terms SCO makes one-fourth of the Global GDP with a recorded average rise of 4.84% in 2016. Furthermore, SCO members have increased their gold and foreign exchange reserves accounting of $4 trillion USD. This shows the increasing influence and relevance of SCO on the global stage.

The complex relationship among the SCO member states residing on the Eurasian landmass will determine the fate of the region in the coming years. The term ‘Eurasian Design’ refers to establish a new system aiming at regional interaction based on the objectives and principles of the Eurasian Economic Union’s framework, the execution of the massive Chinese Belt and Road initiative and establishing greater cooperation including the ASEAN countries. However, given the nature of cooperation, the political coordination and finding a common ground for the national interests will determine the strategies and steps for the joint activities among the states.

There exist multiple challenges including the geopolitical competition among Russia and China in the Central Asia. The competing and conflicting claims on the EAEU and BRI makes the economic interests of the two states at odd. Moreover, the efficacy loss of SCO due to its expansion had also makes the structure more complicated which can be seen in bringing Pakistan and India along with their deep-seated rivalry that will affect the organization’s effective functioning.

Lastly the war-torn Afghanistan contributes to the destabilization in the region which further halts the prospects for the economic cooperation. SCO is more likely to focus on trade, economy, and security in Eurasian region. Nevertheless, the geographical proximity of Afghanistan to Central Asia will compel the states for bilateral engagements with Afghanistan. However, SCO will not play its effective role in Afghanistan due to its own limitations and contradictions. The absence of Afghanistan from SCO does not provide the organization enough grounds to play any significant role in the country.

The emergence of regionalization as a tool to achieve the new forms of interactions among the states had become a significant part of the global order. The diversification in promoting the regionalization is resulting in the formation of supranational systems and flexible models of cooperation proceeding at different paces and different levels.

SCO as a seminal illustration of the interstate regional partnership continue to find the prospects of common grounds to promote the interaction among the states. However it is difficult to find a common ground for economic interests of the member states. Moreover the challenges of the Sino-Russian competing and conflicting claims in Central Asia, Indo-Pak deep seated rivalry will effect the successful functioning of the organization. Similarly Afghanistan continues to be a destabilizing factor in the region and lack of multilateral engagement limits the SCO to play any effective role in Afghanistan. However, the quest continues for the reforms, agenda setting and launch of integration process within SCO.

In a nutshell, SCO is trying to find the common grounds among the members states to promote interaction in the region. However the competing and conflicting claims, deep seated rivalries and the Afghan factor are hindering the successful functioning of the organization. Despite the challenges and skepticism SCO attains the potential to be a tide bringer for the region but the prospect is yet to come in near future.

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