Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was founded in the 2001 by the like-minded Eurasian states led by People’s Republic of China. Since the more than seventeen-years of its existence there have been dramatic shifts at the global geopolitical environment, characterized by a relatively declining US power and influence, resurgence of the Russian “Bear” under Putin and the rise of India and China as the economic hubs of the world. The implication are vast for SCO is such a setting which would continue to surge in the wake of growing interest of the superpower in the Indo-Pacific region. In order to contemplate the prospective of SCO in these surroundings there is a first a need to look back in history for the organizations credentials.
SCO has witnessed limited progress to be fair over the years. Although it did have to its name breakthroughs such as providing a platform for antagonistic adversaries such as India and Pakistan to conduct joint military exercises. Added to that, in the last decade its influence in the politics of Eurasia has coursed to great lengths. The organization covered 50 percent of global population and an area of 3716km that is before India and Pakistan were added in the picture. India with an economy of roughly $2.6 trillion and geography of the 7th largest land-mass state, along with Pakistan which with a $300 billion economy and 200 million population adds to the equation.
The organization as illustrated above presents a striking picture of tremendous power and influence when and if used “smartly and positively”. There is also a defence-oriented mindset behind the working of the SCO which is why it has been called the “NATO of the East”. It has been alleged that the organizations works in jeopardy by destabilizing the Post-Cold War unipolar structure in favor of a “multi-polar world order” of China and Russia.
It is interesting to note that the evolution of organization laid as a result of conflict resolution between Russia (former Soviet Union) and China who in the latter part of the Cold War remained hostile despite being socialist Marxist-Leninst inspired states. The two behaved rationally one could argue by putting aside their disputes and reconciling on territorial issues which laid the foundations of the “Shanghai Five”. Steady progress since then was made by Russia and China, whose progress was incorporated to trade, military and scientific cooperation which absolved them to the animosities of the past. The political calculations made, Western experts would argue was due to the mounting influence of NATO and US across the globe.
The SCO family with the expansion of India and Pakistan is an important development noting that two the possess nuclear weapons. This makes it one of the most powerful organization in the world with a combined nuclear arsenal that would from an estimate be more than 50 percent of global stockpile. Hence, out of the nine nuclear weapon states, four being part of the SCO adds to its stature. There is a possibility that with the “bridge building” history of the organization which has resolved disputes for the members in the past may extend such courtesy to the long unresolved issue of Kashmir, a bone of major contention between India and Pakistan. If such a feat becomes reality, the region could have degree of almost unprecedented stability in the modern times which would boost the economic and security impetus of all the region. SCO at present strategizes to expand its presence even further via the convenience of allowing for “Observer status” to states and regional bodies. It is a fact that Shanghai Cooperation Organization holds a degree of influence that is greater in terms of land-mass than NATO itself.
SCO and Anti-Terrorism
Global terrorism has been categorized as the deadliest of the threats in non-traditional security domain. The focus of SCO remains to be root out the destabilizing factors of “terrorism, separatism and extremism”. The SCO remains to be the single organization that has dedicated an entire wing, the “Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure” (RAT) for this menace, created months prior to the deadly “September 11” Terrorist attacks in the US. Over the years, SCO has arranged several meetings where NATO member states were invited to come up with a join action plan to counter drug smuggling, terrorism and other criminal activities.
SCO and Trade
SCO started as a platform that would facilitate peaceful resolution of border dispute and build-in a degree of military-to-military confidence. The changing geopolitical realities beset at the early parts of the 21st Century provided impetus to extend the influence to other major areas including of trade, contemporary security and politics. The patterns have since then reciprocated evenly where member states are at presented bonded via trade agreements. Such an approach has allowed Russia and China to experience growth in bilateral trade ties in recent years.
It would be interesting to see how China links up its grandeur vision of reviving the “Old Silk Route” with SCO. Linking the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) would provide the degree of trust and mutual acceptability that has been undermined by competitors and adversaries such as US via the tools of propaganda and disinformation against the “China’s Dream”. Pakistan remains at a paramount in the emerging geopolitics where the interests of former, current and aspiring powers lie at the convergence. In order for the 21st Century to be the “Asian Century,” all stakeholders need to redefine their interests from a rational approach that should be centered on “geoeconomics” rather than “geopolitics”. It is peace and stability will the “liberal market economic model” provide the maximum results, conflicts and war would not be desirable in the interests of any power in a world deeply embedded into virtues of “complex interdependence”. The SCO in this pretext can to provide the solidity to the majestic destiny that lie for the region with the “largest program of economic diplomacy since the Marshall Plan” at its disposal to what the 20th neo-classical economist called “Creative Destruction”.