Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

SCO meeting likely to deepen regional security cooperation

By WANG HUI (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-22 08:24

SCO meeting likely to deepen regional security cooperation

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Tashkent for a state visit to Uzbekistan on June 21, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization which turned 15 on June 15 will get a good opportunity to review its achievements and chart a new course at the meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO in Tashkent on June 23-24.

In the run-up to the Tashkent meeting, however, many speculations have been doing the rounds. Many believe the SCO will induct new members while others want to know how it will rise up to new security challenges in the region. It is widely perceived that leaders of the SCO member states will endorse the membership of Pakistan and India. The memberships of two South Asian countries were approved last year at the SCO's summit in Ufa, Russia, but a series of formal procedures need to be carried out before the two countries can be formally admitted to the bloc.

Since its formation in Shanghai 15 years ago, the SCO, which groups China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, has become increasingly effective in tackling regional issues, and the time now is right for the bloc to increase its membership and expand its influence and political sway wider.

Over the years, the bloc has set an example of forging multilateral cooperation in security and economic fields among countries with different cultural, political and development backgrounds. By increasing its membership, its security and economic cooperation, which are badly needed in the region, will benefit more countries and more people.

If Pakistan and India are admitted to the SCO at the Tashkent meeting, it will also help improve the ties between the two South Asian rivals, and thus contribute to peace and development in the subcontinent.

On the security level, it is believed the SCO will recalibrate its strategies in security cooperation to tackle new challenges in the region, which will enable it to play an even greater role in safeguarding regional peace and stability. In fact, it was the common security concerns of the SCO member states that drew them together. Since then, the SCO has accumulated ample experience in security cooperation, for example, through multiple joint anti-terrorism exercises, which have effectively curbed the spread of the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism in the region.

The rise of terrorist groups in the Middle East, the Islamic State in particular, and the rampancy of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan pose real threats to Central Asia.

With the world intensifying its anti-terrorism campaigns, the possibility of IS terrorists fleeing or spreading out to Central Asia has become real. Some terrorists returning from the Middle East have already been caught in Central Asian countries while trying to instigate terrorist attacks. Adding to the region's security concerns, the Taliban and some other terrorist groups are gaining ground in northern Afghanistan.

The SCO meeting in Tashkent, therefore, has to provide some answers on how to deepen security cooperation among the member states in light of the new situation and security challenges in the region.

As far as China is concerned, it has remained a staunch supporter of deepening all round cooperation under the SCO framework. President Xi Jinping will attend the Tashkent meeting and elaborate on China's proposal to expand the realm of the SCO's cooperation and new objectives for the growth of the bloc.

Beijing has proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt which aims to link China with Europe through Central Asia. The ambitious initiative has won the support of almost all the countries along the ancient Silk Road because it will create opportunities for development for the entire region.

It would be in the development interest of all if SCO member states could better integrate their national strategies with China's initiative. And hopefully, the Tashkent meeting will shed light on this aspect as well.

The author is deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily Asia Pacific.

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