Reflections on the eve of summit in Beijing
Some time ago the Central Asian region was a part of wide areal of genesis, movement and mutual influence of various peoples. Cities, states and empires were born, developed, flourished and decayed here. They were fighting and making peace, joined and dissolved. Agriculture and craft were successful here and their products were vastly exported. Trade and consequently intercommunication with outlanders and gentiles, exchanging knowledge and skills, adopting all the best form each other. The “Great Silk Way” took place here. Merchant caravans were moving form the East to the West and from the West to the East dividing into numerous springs covering wide areas from Afghanistan on the south to the Southern Urals on the north binding together Ruthenia, Moscovia, Russia and Chinese empire and with peoples populating the central Asian region.
Nowadays the Central Asia is a region actively involved in world’s politics and economics as well as regional affairs. It is a busy intersection where different politic and economic interests are meeting, where transportation lanes of strategic importance are passing, where contacts and mutual influence of cultures and religions, modern ideas and ancient traditions takes place. New “postbipolar” stage in humankind development, which is characterized by intensification of the struggle for access to the energy recourses, has made this rich in hydrocarbons region an object of high competition. Unfortunately, concentration of sharp threats to the security, which are beyond national borders, global financial crisis, increasing of elements of uncertainty in international relations, did not come by the Central Asia. This was added to the existing, “domestic” problems.
Central Asian states implement active, multiple-vector foreign policy, develop relations with their neighbors as well as out-of-region countries, and realize their national interests through the participation in various multilateral associations. One of them is Shanghai Cooperation Organization established in 2001. In the spirit of centripetal tendencies, which prevailed by the end of 1990s Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have opened above them an “umbrella” under which each member of this new project felt itself more comfortable, got an opportunity to defend its and promote common regional interests with joined efforts.
There are several factors on the background of establishment and successful making up of SCO. I would like to highlight two of many reasons motivated the four Central Asian countries for establishment of SCO: increasing of different threats resistance to which can only be real in union with Russia and China and attractive opportunities for economic and humanitarian cooperation which means their own development. Let us sort things out in order not to make the above mentioned yeasty: what are the threats and how to resist them and what opportunities of cooperation within SCO are look attractive.
Security and its multiplying sides: we must be together before the increasing threats
Stability is one of main values of special pride and cherish in the region of SCO. With advent of the “Twitter revolutions” phenomenon, while Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) were turning out to be a political weapon used for unrest of the situation in developing countries, hazard of repetition of North African and Middle East scenarios in Central Asia was realized as something quite probable. Such thoughts were evoked by the presence in the region of the same problems as ones, which ignited mass disturbances in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria.
For the SCO countries regard for sovereignty, inviolability of territory and non-interference in domestic affairs of each other are basic principles of the Organization vested in its Charter (although it happens that some members of SCO sometimes forget it in the thick of their disputes). But what to do when problem will come from outside? After all the SCO is not a military alliance.
In modern conditions when regional organizations have to make quick and effective response to occurrence of different critical situations, member states of SCO decided necessary and timeous to amend the Regulation on diplomatic steps and response mechanism on situations threatening peace, security and regional stability approved on the SCO summit in 2009 in Yekaterinburg. New edition of the Regulation providing wide range of measures for preventing of crisis situations and response to them with non-military means was approved on the 7th meeting of Security Councils Secretaries of SCO member countries which took place at 12th of April of this year in Beijing and will be rendered for approval of the heads of the states.
For obvious reasons the Collective Security Treaty Organization has much more opportunities. SCO is connected with CSTO with close partnership relations, which obtain special importance in the current situation. Regional stability and security including national security of Central Asian states will be greatly dependent on how clear both organizations will work out the arrangements for “specialization of labor” and response coordination for the case of occurrence of emergency situations in the region.
Understanding of reality of the threats to the information security at the turn of Millennium produced a revolution in the minds of people in different pats of the world. Experts of the SCO countries were among the first who turned to this problem at all its variety on the common level. Thus appeared intergovernmental Agreement on cooperation in securing of international information security of 2009. It has way for mutual resistance to the threats of politico-military, terroristic and criminal background in the field if ICT. After entry of the agreement into force the parties started its implementation – the work on building of complex arrangements for cooperation of six countries has begun. Needless to say that all members of SCO will benefit from it but first of all – countries of Central Asia. Now they can be sure that they will not be left face to face with cyber threat from the more technologically superior rival whoever it may be, malevolent state, terrorist or ordinary swindler.
Subject of providing of energy security is also supreme challenging for the SCO: the Organization includes countries, which produce, consume and transit energy resources. It would seem that the very structure of SCO as the organization with exceptionally high level of internal confidence leads to make arrangements about principles of regional cooperation to the overall benefit. As early as in 2006 Russia put forward an initiative to create an open discussion platform for informal exchange of views on energy strategies and any other issues in the field of energy and energy security between representatives of corresponding state structures, business and scientific communities of the parties involved. And now this idea begins to implement. Preparations are making for the launch of Energy club with participation of member states, observers at SCO and partners in dialogue with SCO. Membership club is forming and range of interested parties is large. Suffice it to say that this initiative was enthusiastically supported by India, Iran. Pakistan, Belarus and Sri-Lanka.
Other issue that is new to the SCO is food supply security. And again there is an obvious complementarity of the member states of SCO. First specific initiatives are sounded like establishing of crops reserve within SCO in order to expand opportunities for stabilizing of regional crops market and responding to emergency situations (Russia) and establishing of “Seed bank of SCO” (China). It will start as usual with developing of the Concept – China has prepared its own project.
Six countries of SCO are intended to increase efficiency of their cooperation on the issues of emergency response.
Currently the parties are preparing the Protocol to the Agreement between the governments of SCO member states on cooperation in assistance in emergency response of 2005. Reason of its signing is in approval of 11 standard forms of documents (request for help, list of supplied equipment, etc.), immediate submission and processing of which during emergency may save human lives and speed-up necessary help. It is scheduled that the Protocol will be signed in June this year “on the margins” of SCO summit in Beijing.
The above listed particular signs of threats and risks which facing or may be faced not only by Central Asian countries. In the face of dangers of the new century all members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization are equal. That is why they have common “security umbrella”, one for all and its hardness depends on unity of the member states, on effectiveness of their cooperation.
Afghanistan: distant war for one and eternal neighbor for the other
Situation in the Central Asia is closely connected with situation in Afghanistan. That is why resistance to the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking which sadly came from the territory beyond the control of Afghan government and ISAF still on the top of priorities of SCO activities.
Fighting terrorism within frames of “Shanghai six” came, to be said, to designed capacity. This was justified by the results of 20th meeting of Council of Regional Anti Terrorist Structure (RATS) which took place on 30th of March this year in Tashkent. Program of actions on fighting the terrorism, separatism and extremism for 2013 – 2015 was prepared for the SCO summit. It is scheduled to increase field work, coordination between the border guards and interaction with partner counter terrorism centers. Observer countries will be involved into RATS activities.
Intense actions were deployed in counter drug field – flow of drugs from Afghanistan literally overflowing Central Asia threatening lives and health of citizens as well as principles of state of some countries as some experts say. Full-flowing river of drugs flows from there to Russia and more and more deeply penetrates China. FDCS of Russia and its SCO partner services are sound the alarm. A number of important agreements on the way of implementation of Anti drug strategy of SCO for 2011 – 2016 was reached at the meeting of heads of competent agencies of the SCO countries, responsible for fighting of the drugs threat, which took place in Beijing on 2nd of April this year. The decision was made on establishing of coordination department on fighting of the drugs within one of the SCO agencies, establish a interchange of information on terrorism financing out of the funds of illegal drug trafficking and more closer cooperation with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. On the meeting, Russian delegation presented a number of serious initiatives. Among them is establishing of interactive map of planting of Afghan opiates and Clandestine drug laboratories, development of tactical cooperation, coordinated efforts on training of Afghan drug enforcement policemen, holding of a conference of SCO on issue of prevention of production and smuggling of drugs.
The military solve their own tasks. Next anti terroristic exercises “Peaceful mission – 2012” will take place in Tajikistan in June of this year. The exercise plan was approved at the meeting of defense ministers of the SCO countries, which took place in Beijing on 24 – 26th of April this year. All will take place under the conditions pushed closer to what can happen in the reality.
But the Afghan scenario has the other side. Recovering Afghan government, which gradually takes the authorities in the field of security, needs support. Besides, afghan people do not see their future out of regional context, without being members of big Eurasian family. The Kabul reaches out for SCO and in June 2011, Afghanistan submitted an official application for obtaining of observer status at SCO, which is now under consideration. There is no doubt that involvement of Afghanistan in activities of SCO is in the general interests.
Issues of ensuring of regional stability encourage SCO to make certain policy towards the Afghanistan. Naturally, situation trend in this country with consideration of “factor of 2014” may demand the members to adjust their mainstream in afghan affairs but they cannot insulate themselves from it. No wonder that many experts name Afghanistan one of the main tests for SCO to come through during next years.
Today the region has a number of regional structures, which have Afghanistan’s issue on their agenda. Strive for coordination of their efforts on assistance to Kabul in restoration of security and rebirth of the economy is the goal of “Istanbul process” initiated by Afghanistan and Turkey in November of last year. It appears that SCO as a key regional organization, which from the very beginning took active participation in mutual approval of Istanbul declaration on reinforcement of regional security an cooperation in the “Heart of Asia” and launching of “Istanbul process”, has all grounds to become a principle partner of Afghanistan in its promotion.
SCO members and other countries and international organizations have slightly different approaches towards the Afghanistan issues. At the same time, it would be unfair to deny the presence of common interests. It seems that there are possibilities for mutually beneficial cooperation between the SCO from one side and USA and NATO from the other side. Let us take the drugs issue as an example. But the agenda needs consideration and negotiations within the SCO. There is only on criterion whether it meets the interests of SCO and its members or not.
Eurasian intersection: roads that we do not choose
Central Asia is a part and a parcel of all Eurasian transportation lanes. Rail and motor roads, aviation routes and pipelines connecting the countries with each other and with neighboring states like Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Mongolia and many more are passing through the countries located in the region. They form a complex network, which may be considered as a common priceless asset. Good use and gradual expansion of this network is a truly “gold mine” for the involved countries. Here Central Asian partners have double benefit as they can increase national transportation systems and earn on the transit.
That is why development of transportation infrastructure is regarding as of paramount importance of all economical activities of SCO member states. They started with motor roads. Individual parts of express ways are finished as pilot projects. Completed preparation of intergovernmental Agreement on establishing of favorable conditions for international road transport. What is left is to agree upon individual routes of transportation and timelines for opening of the traffic on them. Signing of the above-mentioned Agreement would enable to 2020, when the completion of construction of necessary road infrastructure is due, to cross the whole territory of SCO from Saint Petersburg on Baltic sea to the port of Lianyungang on Pacific coast of China without any obstacles.
On the agenda is trilateral project of Russia, Kazakhstan and China for building of international transportation route “Europe – Western China”. At the suggestion of Russia, the parties agreed to develop a Program of coordinated development of motor ways of the SCO member states in accordance with common interests and demands of regional trade and economic cooperation.
The next task is increasing of interconnection of different means of transportation on the territory of SCO and above all in Central Asia. Establishment of transportation and logistics centers should facilitate this. SCO Business Council promotes this mega project with support of member states. Its implementation will drive development of cooperation in use and further development of infrastructure of railroad and aviation communications.
Information and communication traffic is also a kind of road network. For the recent years Russia, China and Central Asian states are working over the implementation of the “High-speed Information Highway of SCO” project. Russian party proposed to use developed by our experts’ model of forming and functioning of transboundary space of trust of the SCO members in the Internet. Chinese partners proposed to establish SCO’s “Platform for electronic commerce”.
We are actually do not choose these roads because they choose us, our countries, their economies, which became more and more interconnected with time. But the highest degree of economic cooperation in Eurasian region, the integration, was obtained by the other association, the Customs union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belorussia. Today, based on this integration core there is proposition to establish the Eurasian economic union, a powerful transnational association, capable of playing a role of effective link between Europe and dynamic Asian-Pacific Region.
When we mention ATR, first of all we mean China, this driving force of regional and global economic development. I suppose that one of the complicated but very important future issues will be finding of optimal variant of incorporation of SCO into evolving frame of Eurasian integration.
Continental community: skill of coexistence and new identity
Member states of SCO have different civilizational roots. Each has its own history, original culture, historical memory and its own way of development. Twists and turns of development of this vast territory were profoundly analyzed and brilliantly described in the books of L.N. Gumilev, who made a noticeable contribution in development of “eurasianalism”. As is known, theoretics of this movement build their postulations upon common historical fates and typological unity of psycho ethnic characteristics of peoples of Eurasia, whose forms of genesis and national characters were formed under consolidating influence of Russian super ethnos. On these basis leaders of “neoeurasianalism” concluded on necessity to consolidate Eurasia (without China) into autonomous pole of emerging new world order.
Closeness of peoples of Russia and Central Asia who almost a century and a half lived within the frames of one state is self-apparent. Meanwhile many common things can be found between the descendants of Ancient Rus’ and Great Steppe and China. The signs of oriental despotism characterized all State formations, which emerged in this area with complicated geographical and climatic conditions; their societies were not influenced by ideas of freedom and democracy, which were developing within the European civilization. In the new era this lead to the flourishing of egalitarian concepts. Just at that spot because of accession of communists to power, the socialistic experiment was implemented. Several decades ago, after exit from depths of administrative-command system, those countries were comparatively late to switch onto track of market economy, having passed through difficult period of adaptation to the new conditions of existence. Finally, after centuries of living on vast spaces of firm land peoples of current SCO’s countries have formed a continental mentality, coming out, as N.Y. Danilevsky said, “in harmony of sedentary and steppe roots”, in patriarchality and tolerance, they gained habit of unambiguous coexistence with neighboring countries and peoples.
SCO has a significant potential for «unity in diversity”, which has great significance for strengthening of basis for social support of SCO. Its development in an unbiased manner promotes consolidation of “community spirit” of the member states. Some experts consider this subject as a strategic one. Really, among the goals and objectives of SCO Charter the first one is a promotion of mutual trust, friendship and good-neighborly relations between its member countries.
Interaction in cultural and humanitarian dimension was immensely designed to help it. Many things are already on the way. As examples, we can take steps taken in the field of education such as implementation of SCO University project (by the way, this year the master’s certificates will be given to its first graduates), holding of education weeks and forums of rectors of higher education institutes, development of extremism countermeasures program by means of «soft force». The idea of development of inter-civilization dialogue within SCO is worth paying attention to.
Today it is difficult to forecast whether the development of Shanghai Cooperation Organization will lead to occurrence of some SCO community (one can mention that many regional organizations are also have the same goals, for example, European Union and ASEAN). But we can surely acknowledge the presence of conditions for SCO to obtain a new identity in the future.
Unified voice sounds louder: coordination of foreign policy actions
Unity of SCO member states is visible by unaided eye when one tries to analyze approaches of six countries towards main international and regional issues. On the sessions of the UN General Assembly during the discussions with our foreign partners, we maintain similar principles and response to the global events in the same manner. This creates a unprejudiced foundation for foreign policy cooperation, for blocking on the subjects where positions of SCO countries are concordant, for mutual support. Meanwhile, the nonconcurrence in approaches towards individual issues should not be considered as tragedy: eventually, the SCO combines independent states with their own views on and objectives of foreign policy. They have their statutory right to agree with each other not on all issues.
Literally, the other day in UN where most of the countries belong to one or another group we were every man for himself. Today permanent delegations of SCO countries are holding intense preparatory negotiations with each other, exchange information, analyzing situations and looking for necessary solutions. This is particularly important for small missions, which cannot overlook everything. But even large countries feel themselves more comfortable when they have firm support of associates.
For the recent years, the representative of chair state is addressing on behalf of SCO on number of items on the agenda on the sessions of General Assembly. The main address is on the subject of “Terrorism”. I am sure that list of issues when we speak una voce will only increase.
Finally, common estimates of international situation are annually included into outcome documents of SCO summits and information statements following the results of Council of Foreign Ministers.
On the international level SCO member states propose joined initiatives. In such a way, in September 2011 permanent delegations provided the UN Secretary General with a request for distribution developed by SCO draft of “Code of conduct in the field of ensuring of international information security” as an official document of 66th session of UN General Assembly.
Naturally, special attention is paid for cooperation in regional issues. More and more outcome has preliminary negotiations of deputy foreign ministers of SCO countries, observer states and Afghanistan on the issues of ensuring of regional security, which became regular. As highlighted in the press release following the results of last round, which took place in Beijing at 30th of March this year, the parties “unanimously emphasized the necessity of increasing of regional cooperation in the interests of security, stability and development in the region”. There is no doubt that practice of holding of such preliminary negotiations in “extended SCO format” will be continued. Their participants confirm readiness to meet and compare positions both prior the large international events on Afghanistan and in prearranged order in the capital cities and moreover not only of SCO member states but of observer states.
Isn‘t is accidental that the interest for SCO is growing? Notably, from the geographically remote countries from Middle East and South Caucasus to South and South-East Asia.
Out-of-region actors: make yourself at home but not forget that on a visit
After fall of the Soviet Union many new parties appeared at the Central Asian region. In such a way, more and more attention is paid for the Central Asia in Washington. Especially recently in connection with plans to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.
In accordance with results of complex review of US policy in the region president Obama’s administration has defined five main priorities: expansion of cooperation with Central Asian states in assistance to coalition force in Afghanistan; develop and diversify supplies routes of region’s energy resources; promote political liberalization and respect to the human rights; increase competitive power of market economies and facilitate economic reforms; prevent appearance of failed states. It is easy to notice that those priorities first of all reflect basic postulates of US foreign policy and intended for serving to implement American concept of “Great Central Asia”. Not all of them and not in all aspects respond to real demands of Central Asian states.
EC is also place emphasis on Central Asian direction. The Brussels has adopted a special document under the title “European Union and Central Asia: strategy for new partnership (2007 – 2012)”. . Its “remake” for new five year term is under preparation now. EC’s strategy highlights the fact that united Europe and regional states have common objectives like obtaining of stability and flourishing through peaceful cooperation. However, authors of the strategy add that EC tasks also include development and consolidation of stable, even handed and open societies, ensuring of commitment of Central Asian partners to internationally recognized norms, supremacy of law, human rights and democracy. In economic emphasis is made like in case of the USA on energy. By the way, this is a good reason to think about what is more here – commitment to the mutually beneficial cooperation or geopolitical considerations.
USA, European Union (especially Germany), Japan, Turkey do a lot with regard to assist countries of Central Asia in overcoming of difficulties they are facing. Definition of type of such cooperation and its directions should be a sovereign decision of Central Asian states themselves and their distant partners.
Another matter is when economic or other kind of assistance is misused for attempt to push out of the Central Asian region countries whose political, economical, cultural and spiritual presence is based on history, provides a backstop of local institutions of state, and plays an important role in life of the common people. When actions taken are aimed at destruction of developed bilateral connections and multilateral cooperation mechanisms. Especially sensitive is an issue of striving of individual “out-of-regionalists” make arrangements about downbedding of their military infrastructure in the region. I would like to hope that new friends of Central Asia will cherish the present stability and respect realities of this complex and may be not always understandable for outsides «world”, its customs and traditions. Upon that it is necessary to remember: partners from far away will come and will go and old friends and neighbors are staying
SCO summit in Beijing: an important stage in development of future plans
Generally successful presidency of China in SCO passing under motto of promotion of friendship and goodneighborly relations in the region is about to finish. In June, the Chinese capitol will welcome the SCO summit. It will be a major event of international life. It must be said, that it cannot be otherwise: Beijing will be the place of meeting of leaders of member states of authoritative international regional organization, which combines nothing less than two nuclear powers, permanent members of United Nations Security Council. It is expected that top leaders of India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan, observer countries at SCO, will arrive at the summit. Invitations are sent to the presidents of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, who would like to be seen as the guests of presiding party, the China.
In addition, for us the forthcoming summit will have a special meaning because of participation of V.V. Putin, the president of Russian Federation, who was one of the originators of SCO.
Many documents are under preparation for Beijing meeting of Council of heads of the member states of SCO. Following the results of summit it is planned to adopt a Declaration. Nevertheless, I suppose that the most important result of the summit should be an approval of principles of strategy for further development of SCO, as a basis of development of the strategy itself on the next stage.
So, SCO actively making plans for the future. While strengthening of the Organization, tissue of its “umbrella” becomes more and more dense and figuratively speaking, watertight. That particular property opens new prospects before the Organization in the interests of all including, and possibly as first priority to its member states from Central Asia.