Accession of two South Asian countries, India and Pakistan, to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, has generated a predictable response: what now? What changes or initiatives can we expect in economics, politics and the humanitarian sphere, and when will these initiatives be included in the Organization’s documents and their implementation begin?
It is logical to expect to hear the first answers to these questions at the next meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government, which will take place in Russia. Its agenda includes the following items: development of trade and economic cooperation taking into account the trends dominating the global economy, promotion of humanitarian contacts within the SCO, and approval of the Organization’s budget for 2018.
According to information from diplomatic sources, no one expects any specific or detailed initiatives from the representatives of India and Pakistan, especially in the form of serious investment projects, just yet. Such things don’t emerge from nowhere, it normally takes many years to discuss and implement them.
However, speaking of the already functioning projects, Pakistan, for example, participates in the building of roads and seaports within the Chinese One Belt, One Road initiative. India is not part of this initiative and, moreover, is wary of it, since some roads will go across territory disputed by India. However, the country has its own programs, which actually boil down to the same: creating new logistic routes across the continent. Some of these projects involve Iran.
at the forthcoming meeting of the Council, India and Pakistan are expected to name the existing SCO programs that they can join right away. Humanitarian projects, for example, are broken down into numerous smaller ones, so there is something to choose from. Notably, the new members are expected to join computerisation programs, since it is known to be their strength.
At the current stage, we can expect the two newcomers to voice their general intentions and the list of potential future areas of work. It is necessary to take into account that the two states have been SCO observers for a decade. Transition to the full-fledged membership will not be tumultous: they know where they have come and what internal mechanisms exist here.
On the other hand, organizational work related to the full membership currently consumes a lot of energy, and this will be so for a while. Afterwards, it will be fair to expect new plans, proposals and initiatives.
Some experts predicted that the new addition to the family would cause complications, some forecasts were truly fatalist: the accession was expected to destroy the Organization (because of the close friendship between Pakistan and China and India’s tensions with both). This, however, has not happened.
Recently, a meeting of SCO foreign ministers was for the first time held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. It was devoted to inclusion of the new members in all areas of the Organization’s work. The meeting was initiated by China, and it started with Indians and Pakistanis congratulating each other on the fact that they were going to work together from now on.
The statement released after the meeting once again emphasized the unity of the SCO member states’ opinions on many present-day problems. Notably, it pointed to the “destructive and counter-productive nature of attempts to use unilateral restrictive measures as tools of political and economic sanctions” (referring to the sanctions).
A separate section was devoted to the Korean issue. It dwells on the need to negotiate. The thought does not seem special, but it should be remembered that the very idea of “talking to Pyongyang” seems immoral to the entire American diplomacy (be it with President Trump or without him).
So, the SCO family has been joined by two very different countries, which have problems with each other. But, as we can see, Indians, Chinese and Pakistanis work quite amicably together on the SCO platform, coordinating their positions in many areas. And this is after the predictions that the Indian-Pakistanit border conflict would aggravate and break up the SCO.
Why this concord? Let’s start with Afghanistan, whose instablity in the past served as a catalyst for establishing the SCO. It has now been decided to mount cooperation with Afghanistan within a joint contact group. By the way, one of the key reason for India’s and Pakistan’s accession to the SCO was their numerous interests in Afghanistan – related to business and also anti-terrorist and anti-drug activities. And they are quite capable of coming up with new initaitives in these areas.
Of course, the United States is playing its own game in the region: it is now threatening Pakistan (and, consequently, China, which supports it), and flirting with India, hoping to drive a wedge between it and China. Yet within the SCO, at the prime ministers’ summit, these countries’ heads of government sit together at one table and negotiate.