Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Initiative cannot be separated from SCO

By Farhod Toplipov (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-17 08:31

So the SCO is changing structurally and functionally; it has taken an essential step forward and shouldered an unprecedented and comprehensive ambition: to accommodate and shape the overall perspectives of three regions-Eurasia, Central Asia and South Asia. Euro-Atlantic area which is outside the, so to speak, "zone of SCO responsibility", has its own gravity force for Central Asians. In this sense, the overall security arrangements, economic strategies and even socio-cultural life in the region are now shaped in a very eclectic way.

Ultimately, the Belt and Road Initiative cannot be considered separately from the SCO. Three types of countries in the SCO/Belt and Road Initiative exemplify a more complex, eclectic strategic environment than that imagined under the romantic rubric of the Silk Road.

First, construction of the Andijan-Osh-Irkeshtam railway can help connect China's coastal region and Amsterdam through the land route, which will be 8,000 kilometer shorter than the sea route through Suez Canal. But this project, designed in 1997, still remains unrealized because of disagreements between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Second, from Turkmenistan, a non-SCO country, four gas pipelines already stretch through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan toward China. This means that economic cooperation can be developed at bilateral levels when interests so dictate.

And third, Afghanistan is apparently covered by the Belt and Road Initiative and possibly by the SCO as well. Afghanistan's security and economic recovery gets strong help from NATO/US and their military presence in the country.

How will all these eclectic arrangements be adjusted with the SCO and Belt and Road Initiative frameworks remain to be seen. And it will be interesting to watch how the Belt and Road Initiative accommodates many different travelers on the routes.

The author is director of the non-governmental Research and Education Institution, Bilim Karvoni (Knowledge Caravan), in Tashkent.

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