P
akistan and India have been granted the full membership status of Shanghai Cooperation Organization at its annual summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. SCO is pan-Eurasian inter-Governmental security block that is largely considered as an Asian-answer to NATO. With inclusion of India & Pakistan, SCO now represents 40% of world’s population & that gives it a lot of weight among the other numerous regional organizations.

Full membership of in SCO was a long-time desired of Pakistan. Pakistan has been the observer member of SCO since 2002 when it was given this status along with India & Iran. Pakistan’s then president Asif Ali Zardari sought the full membership of the organization in SCO 10th annual summit held at Astana, Kazakhstan in June, 2011.

Now that Pakistan is full member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, how much is it significant for Pakistan & how can Pakistan profit from the SCO membership ? Lets look into it.

Solution to Pakistan’s Energy Crisis

SCO is unique in a sense that it consists of both large energy producers like Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Iran and energy consumers like China, India & Pakistan. SCO members are rich with natural resources. A full membership of SCO will help Pakistan to establish close relations with ‘SCO Energy Club’ and find a solution to its energy crisis. SCO members states can work together to shape a common system that addresses the energy needs of the region & beyond. It will not only allow the energy consumers countries like Pakistan to solve their energy crisis but will ensure the sustainable development in the region.

Resume Gas-pipe Line Projects

SCO membership will also allow Pakistan & India a platform to sit together & workout some plan to resume gas projects like IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) and TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) . These projects are long stuck due to Pakistan-India’s worsening bilateral ties. These gas projects are vital for fast growing economies like Pakistan & India. SCO’s key players like Russia & China can exert their influence on India and Pakistan to improve their relations & workout strategies to complete these gas pipeline projects..

Access to Central Asian markets

Pakistan has many bilateral agreements with many of central Asian states but SCO membership will help Pakistan to further these relations & extend them to other regional countries. Pakistan is the gateway to Central Asia & can use this position to increase its exports to Central Asia markets. In 2010, Pakistan became member of The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) that paved the way for Pakistan to link its Gwadar & Karachi ports to landlocked Central Asian states but Pakistan has not made the use of this membership to the fullest due to numerous reasons. Now that under CPEC, Gwadar deep sea port is operational, Pakistan can make SCO members to be part of CPEC, turning Gwadar into the hub of international sea trade.

Solution to India-Pakistan Disputes

SCO membership can bring Pakistan & India closer & can help them solve their longstanding issues including Kashmir issue. If nothing else, SCO annual summit will force Pakistan-India head of states to sit under one roof every year. This can break the stalemate in Indo-Pak relations. Further, SCO membership will provide Pakistan-India armies with the perhaps rarest opportunity to do joint military exercise. Though we mustn’t have high hopes as some people fear that like SAARC, SCO will also become a hostage of Pakistan-India rivalry & will deviate from its purpose.

Peace in Afghanistan

Pakistan, China & Russia are already holding talks for finding ways to bring peace in war-ridden Afghanistan. Pakistan inclusion in SCO will will help to prioritize the issue because peace in Afghanistan is the key to development in the region. After being driven out from Middle East, ISIS is trying to set its foot in Afghanistan & adjacent tribal areas of Pakistan. This new threat can jeopardize the peace-process in Afghanistan & can destablize the whole region. Now being a full member of SCO, Pakistan can collaborate with other member states to exchange the sensitive information to counter the threat of ISIS in Pakistan.

SCO provides the member states an opportunity to work together & increase bilateral & multilateral trade & defense relations for the development of the region. If SCO project can succeed, it can change the lives of 40% population of the world, living in this region.

Sohail Khan

Sohail Khan is an independent journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan. He writes on defense & regional security. He can be reached on twitter at @SoheilKhanzada on his website

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