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SCO meeting to showcase effective diplomacy

By Sun Zhuangzhi | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-30 07:14

Premier Li Keqiang's proposals and policy push at the ongoing 16th meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Sochi, Russia, will form an important and probably the concluding part of China's major diplomatic efforts this year. High hopes have been pinned on Li's diplomacy in Sochi, especially because this is the first SCO high-level meeting after India and Pakistan joined the organization.

In the 16 years since its establishment, the SCO has grown into an influential organization that endorses and practices new cooperative ideas in line with the changing regional situation. It is therefore crucial that the bloc stays cohesive and vibrant after the inclusion of India and Pakistan in the SCO community.

The expanded SCO is facing some institutional challenges, particularly because India and Pakistan are yet to properly address their disparities and conflicts of interests, and it will take some time for the group to adjust to the changes. In this context, the organization's successes in resolving disputes between member states and the documented promise of the two South Asian neighbors to keep their bilateral conflicts outside the SCO mechanism should be reassuring.

As the only multinational organization named after a Chinese city, the SCO's growth and expansion have a lot to do with China's contributions. China's "major-country diplomacy" with Chinese characteristics, which was highlighted in General Secretary Xi Jinping's report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October, suggests the country is willing to shoulder more global responsibilities and use its experience and wisdom to solve regional problems.

The two-day Sochi meeting that concludes on Friday, too, can expect Beijing's constructive push for expanding trade and implementing the Treaty of Long-Term Good Neighborly and Friendly Cooperation among SCO member states. Beijing will also try to seek wider consensus on capacity, financial and connectivity cooperation, while making efforts to give shape to some 40 cooperative deals it has designed since assuming the SCO rotating chair in June.

The changes in the regional security and economic situations have mixed implications for the SCO. On the security front, the United States has changed tack in its South Asian policy by pressuring Pakistan to take on the Taliban, and the Islamic State group could revamp its guerrilla tactics after losing most of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

The world economy's lukewarm recovery and the rise of anti-globalization forces in the West also merit extra vigilance.

So, apart from deepening energy, transportation and agricultural cooperation among member states, as well as streamlining joint operations to combat cross-border crimes, the SCO also needs to pay greater attention to ecological protection, cyber security and cultural exchanges.

The Belt and Road Initiative could offer an opportunity to enhance the cohesiveness of the group, as all member states are on the Belt and Road routes and most of them have shown great interest in participating in the connectivity-centered projects. Pushing forward the Belt and Road programs under the SCO framework and discussing its feasibility at high-profile meetings, such as the one in Sochi, could also help reassure India about the aim and benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative, because it sees the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a vital Belt and Road project, as a geopolitical threat.

The author is secretary-general of the SCO Research Center affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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