SCO: Paving path for regional integration


Regionalization has emerged as a new form and process of integration among the countries of the world. Many states are establishing relations with the neighboring regional states to enhance their potential and also to facilitate each other for solutions to regional issues. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)is an outstanding example of regionalization and hybrid and new mixed model of interstate multifaceted cooperation. The grouping comprises Russia, and China besides India, Pakistan, Iran and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In June 2001, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and China laid the foundation of the SCO, the immediate purpose of which was to fight three evils of religious extremism, international terrorism, and ethnic separatism. Pakistan has indisputably achieved a diplomatic achievement with the acquisition of full-fledged membership in the SCO in June 2017 at the 16th Heads of State Summit in Astana.

The overall population of the SCO nations with the inclusion of India and Pakistan formally becoming full members of the organization, will be close to 3.5 billion, or about half of the world’s population. The estimated combined GDP of the SCO nations would also be greater than 25% of the world’s GDP. As a result, the SCO is set to revolutionize global politics and economy and serve as the fulcrum of Eurasia. Through a shared identity and collaboration on shared concerns, the SCO aimed to advance the economic development and regional stability of its member states.

SCO has the potential to change the politico-economic and strategic landscape of the world. A severe energy crisis is plaguing the countries of South Asia.  While having abundant resources for manufacturing gas and oil, its members also have an excellent chance to improve regional cooperation to overcome the energy crisis. The two mega projects, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipelines, would be extremely helpful for the region and will specifically meet Pakistan’s energy needs. Additionally, China is eager to make investments in the South Asian region. The clearest examples of this are the economic projects of China under BRI, CPEC and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor. These corridors will enhance the opportunity for regional integration by connecting and improving trade ties among member states.

Regional connectivity is very important as it is likely to reap a lot of benefits for the development of the states. Promoting regional connectivity always remains a top priority of Pakistan. Geographically speaking, Pakistan is bordered by Iran, China, Afghanistan, and India. It is crucial for Pakistan’s development and prosperity that it engage in peaceful engagement with its neighbors to resolve all outstanding issues. Pakistan aspires to receive a lot of support as a permanent member as it works to address its economic, security, and social problems. Pakistan sees itself as a more significant contributor to regional growth because it shares membership in the SCO with two other significant regional powers, Russia and China. Giving Pakistan and India permanent membership aided in regional integration and increased the organization’s effectiveness in the Central and South Asian areas. Now that both nations are full members, they may improve their political and economic cooperation and strengthen common policies with other member states. Moreover, full membership in the SCO has the potential to improve the image of Pakistan in the international arena.

Economic prosperity is one of the important motives for every nation and economic ties are closely linked with foreign policy. The SCO also provides an opportunity for member states to strengthen their ties and increase trade with the European states. Creating a peaceful and conducive environment for foreign firms is important to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The SCO can provide a forum for creating a soft image for enhancing trade relationships of states and also help to explore new markets for trade. Gwadar port can play a very important role in the socio-economic development of Pakistan, especially in the context of Balochistan. Pakistan can offer western China and Central Asia the quickest access to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea because it is situated at the intersection of South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, and Western China. As Pakistan’s location acts as a gateway for the landlocked countries and might become a transit economy through Gwadar, connectivity must be created to get the most out of this strategic location.


Furthermore, Terrorism and Extremism are the major constraints in the regional integration among South Asian states. SCO membership is particularly crucial from a security perspective. The Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure (RATS) of the SCO can be beneficial in broadening institutional consensus and cooperation. Recently, delegations from China, Pakistan, and other member nations of the SCO attended a meeting of the grouping being hosted by India that is expected to deliberate on pressing security challenges, including threats of terrorism. The three-day meeting in New Delhi is anticipated to witness extensive deliberations on regional security scenarios, including the situation in Afghanistan, people familiar with the development said. Meanwhile, the annual summit of SCO ‘Heads of State council’ is going to be held in Uzbekistan this year in September 15-16 in Samarkand. Uzbekistan’s President, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, outlined the priorities and tasks of the chairmanship. These include efforts to raise the potential and authority of the organization, ensure peace and stability in the region, reduce poverty, and ensure food security. Furthermore, a plan for the development of intraregional trade, which will include measures to eliminate trade barriers, align technical regulations and digitalize customs procedures will also be the agenda of discussion.

Since its formation, the SCO is facing several structural and organizational challenges. All members have their own interests and values of independence and sovereignty, which are difficult to reconcile with collective security, particularly Pakistan and India, China and India have mutual mistrust and all Central States also have territorial issues with one another. Consequently, member states are unable to negotiate the major issues on this platform such as the Kashmir issue which is a major restraint between India and Pakistan. To cope with these challenges, there is a dire need for trust-building efforts by using this platform. The mutual trust among member states will lead to a peaceful and economically prosperous region of the world.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Newsletter