Question: Now there is much talk about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. What do you think are the strong and weak points of the SCO and what are the prospects for its further development?
Alexei Borodavkin: As is known, the SCO was born out of the experience of practical cooperation amassed by Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and China in resolving the complicated problems inherited from the period of Soviet-Chinese confrontation. By joint efforts a successful negotiation process had been launched, the delimitation and demarcation of the borders with the PRC completed, confidence-building measures devised and the groundwork for developing multi-vector cooperation laid. Guided by the principles of mutual respect, understanding and trust, the five countries, joined by Uzbekistan, had decided to expand the spectrum of interaction and impart a permanent character to it, which led to the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The SCO is a relatively young grouping, but one can safely state its high prestige in the international arena and ability to adequately respond to the challenges of our time. The SCO member states’ commitment to openness and equality, their striving for joint development and their respect for the diversity of cultures and traditions – this philosophy subsequently received the name “Shanghai spirit” – have bolstered the potential of the organization and helped transform it into an important factor of regional and global politics.
Today combating terrorism, organized crime and illicit drug trafficking along with promoting comprehensive and balanced economic growth to raise the living standards of the peoples of our states and advancing humanitarian and cultural links firmly rank among SCO priorities.
On the other hand, admittedly, the young organization is not free of “growth difficulties.” Its agenda is being specified, search is under way for the most efficient forms of cooperation, and the composition of the SCO is not conclusively defined. Special attention is being paid to further consolidating the SCO, streamlining its activities, and reinforcing coordination among member states. A vivid example: the concrete tasks set in the Summit Declaration and Joint Communique in Dushanbe on August 28, which are to be tackled by joint efforts, including during the period of Russia’s chairmanship of the organization.
SCO IS THREATENING NO ONE
Question: Different media outlets, especially in the West, are accusing the SCO of aggressiveness, and pinning different labels on it – for example, that it is a “counterweight to NATO.” What could you say to that?
Alexei Borodavkin: I want to stress: the goals of the SCO are to strengthen peace, security and stability in the region, to ensure the well-being of the peoples of member states and to assist the construction of a new democratic, equitable and rational world order. In the SCO documents, primarily the Charter and the Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, it is clearly stated that multi-format cooperation within the framework of the organization is not aimed against other countries. There was no undertaking to transform the grouping into a military-political bloc, nor is there. The Dushanbe Declaration, adopted at the 2008 summit, accentuates the importance of overcoming the confrontational way of thinking and renouncing staking on force. I think that recent events, both political and economic, convincingly show that not a single country and not a single grouping are capable to guarantee stability and prosperity alone. Only by common efforts, based on a constructive mindset, can we overcome the complicated problems of contemporary times.
Thus, the SCO does not operate to spite or suit someone. It advocates reinforcing security and stability, developing many-sided partnerships for the good of the peoples of our countries and forming an institutional architecture of international relations based on mutual respect, due consideration for the interests of each other, and equal cooperation.
Question: How does the SCO intend to construct its line in relations with the outside world?
Alexei Borodavkin: Permit me to draw your attention to the following important aspect: the SCO does not merely declare high aims, but also consistently works to implement them. As early as 2004 it came up with the initiative to create a partner network of multilateral associations operating in the Asia-Pacific Region. Memorandums of understanding have since been signed with ASEAN, ESCAP, CIS, CSTO, and ECO.
Observer status with the right of active participation in meetings of the highest governing and working bodies of the SCO has been provided to such Asian states as India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan. Soon the representatives of these countries will be present at the meetings of ministers responsible for foreign economic and foreign trade activities and of heads of transport agencies. There have been approved the Regulations for SCO Regional Antiterrorist Structure Interaction with Observers, which will make it possible to significantly intensify cooperation in the fight against international terrorism.
The SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group functions on a regular basis. In execution of the respective decision of the Dushanbe Summit, practical preparations are under way for convening a special conference on Afghanistan under the aegis of the SCO. It is understandable that counteraction against terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and organized crime, which are projected on an increasing scale from the territory of the IRA, requires joints efforts by member states, Afghanistan’s neighbors and all countries and international organizations involved in Afghan affairs. The SCO, naturally, advocates the broadest and closest cooperation on this track.
In the current year, in confirmation of the SCO principle of openness, a new format of interaction, dialogue partner status, which enables interested states and associations to join individual SCO activities, has been introduced.
RUSSIA IN THE ORGANIZATION OF COOPERATION
Question: Russia currently presides over the SCO. What tasks does it set for itself and the organization?
Alexei Borodavkin: After the end of the summit in Dushanbe, the SCO chairmanship passed to Russia, which will perform these responsible duties until the next meeting of the Council of Heads of State in mid-June 2009 in Yekaterinburg. As President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev has noted, in the period ahead we intend to undertake everything in our power for the reinforcement of the coordination mechanisms of the SCO, the deepening of mutually advantageous cooperation in all areas and the further growth of the prestige of our organization on the international stage.
The SCO has worked out a solid program of action on a broad spectrum of issues, which is designed to impart to common efforts additional dynamics and quality. This is the precise goal of the plan of measures of the Russian SCO chairmanship in 2008-2009.
Of course, paramount attention will be paid to the further consolidation and cohesion enhancement of member states. The degree of trustfulness and mutual understanding in the SCO is very high. The support voiced by the partners regarding the measures taken by Russia to restore peace in the South Caucasus Region is testimony to this. Pursuant to a common decision, the practice of intra-SCO consultations on current foreign policy issues and on stability and security problems will be augmented.
On the practical plane, it is borne in mind to advance the well-proven cooperation in countering terrorism, drug trafficking and transfrontier crime. Along with work in the Afghan sector, action will be taken to broaden the legal base of such cooperation, launch appropriate organizational mechanisms, train personnel and hold joint training exercises.
In the economic sphere member states have to systematically carry out the Program of Multilateral Economic and Trade Cooperation, whose renewed version was approved at the meeting of the Council of Heads of Governments (Prime Ministers) of the SCO member states in Astana on October 30 this year. The agenda also includes expansion of energy dialogue, and improvements in the practice of common projects in such areas as transport and information and telecommunication technologies. It is very important to intensify public-private partnerships and continue the active involvement in SCO economic cooperation of entrepreneurial and financial circles through their structures – the Business Council and the Interbank Association.
Exceptionally diverse is the set of azimuths along which the social component of SCO activities is being developed. Interesting events are due in the fields of culture, education and health care. Suffice it to mention the planned 2009 festival of arts, and the initiatives to prevent and combat infectious diseases and to establish a SCO University as a network of tertiary education institutions of member states with a uniform program of training. We have seriously prepared for the chairmanship and are sure that in cooperation with the partners the interesting and extensive tasks before the SCO will be successfully realized.
Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Of The Russian Federation