SHANGHAI: The driving force behind the birth and development of the young Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) is the need to meet the common challenges faced by member countries after the end of the Cold War.
In Shanghai five years ago, the heads of state of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan proclaimed the establishment of the new regional group, which would grow rapidly and quickly make its presence felt in the international arena.
The post-Cold War world is chiefly characterized by extensive regional co-operation among countries that intend to seize historic opportunities to develop themselves and raise people's standards of living in a rapidly-changing international and regional situation.
Countries in and around Central Asia are no exception to the trend of economic globalization and political multipolarization.
In the meantime, terrorism, separatism and extremism are on the rise in the region, posing an increasingly dangerous threat to regional peace and stability.
Against this background, the SCO was set up on June 15, 2001 in Shanghai on the basis of the "Shanghai Five" of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
A solid legal foundation has been laid, mechanisms of dialogue at different levels put in place and a permanent organizational structure built. Great progress has been made in the past five years thanks to close co-operation and concerted joint efforts by member countries.
Border disputes left over from history between China and other SCO member countries have finally been settled, creating favourable conditions for close co-operation.
A regional anti-terror agency known as the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) was set up in 2004 in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, to co-ordinate the fight against "the three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism.
Since then, a number of anti-terror exercises have been held in SCO member states and a similar one will be staged in Russia in 2007.
Vyacheslav Kasimov, director of the RATS executive committee, said that the heads of state gathering for the 2006 SCO summit are expected to sign a compendium on fighting the "three evil forces" during the 2007-09 period.
The scope of co-operation among the SCO members has also expanded rapidly from security to economy, technology, transportation, energy, culture and education, despite the two wars the United States fought in Afghanistan and Iraq following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The recent "colour revolution," which affected some SCO member countries in Central Asia, also caused no adverse effects on the foundation of the regional group.
A basic reason for the SCO's vitality is that its tenet and principles conform to the fundamental interests of all member countries, which have the common goals of developing good-neighbourly and friendly relations, strengthening co-operation in various fields, fighting "the three evil forces" and promoting the establishment of a just, fair and democratic world order.
A new mode of nation-to-nation relations, which is different from the confrontational alliance between the powers in the Cold War era, has been formed as the SCO members deepen co-operation in line with "the Shanghai Spirit." This calls for mutual trust and common security, partnership and non-alignment, openness and transparency, equality and consensus, mutual benefit and not targeting any third country or regional group.
Mongolia, Pakistan, Iran and India have been accepted as SCO observers and Afghanistan has also built contact with the regional body, which has also forged relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Commonwealth of Independent States and some UN agencies.
(China Daily 06/15/2006 page2)