_ Baber Ali Bhatti, Researc fellow, Strategic Vision Institute. Islamabad, 19 December 2017.
The 16th meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) Council of the Heads of Government (CHG) was held from November 30, 2017 to December 1, 2017 at Sochi, Russia. Since Pakistan and India were accepted as full member of SCO in its 17th summit held in June 2017, this is the first meeting of the SCO member-states’ heads of government in which Pakistan is participating as a full member-state. The meeting was intended to focus on the strategy, prospects, and the priorities of SCO’s developmental cooperation.
In this auspicious meeting, Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi participated as a head of government and made a remarkable speech. Addressing the summit, Mr. Abbasi emphasized on the peaceful political settlement of issues while assuring that Pakistan is determined to contribute to SCO’s mandate. He maintained that Pakistan is fully committed to eliminate all kinds of terrorism and pointed out that terrorism cannot be identified with any specific religion, country or nationality. He further added that the future of SCO depends on deep multilateral relations, enhancing communication, and connectivity through various means.
During his comprehensive speech, PM Abbasi not only covered various spheres of SCO’s objectives but also elevated the position of Pakistan by expounding the future direction. Taking into account the whole mandate of SCO, he showed Pakistan’s resolve to make significant contributions to the mandate. Above all, terrorism, which is considered an imminent threat by all states alike and damaged Pakistan the most, was also abhorred and discouraged to be identified with any specific religion, country or nationality. Indirectly, he repudiated the association of terrorism with any country.
Pakistan’s commitment can also be gauged by the fact that Mr. Abbasi proposed various areas to enhance the multi-lateral ties. He proposed to harmonize the laws for the movement of merchandise. He further asked for the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers. It will possibly enhance the trade corporation among SCO member-states. While adopting the economic approach and talking about the region, Mr. Abbasi asserted that creating synergies between Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and regional stability through available means and investing more in fields of sports, medicine, and education is imperative to regional prosperity. This approach implicitly indicates that Pakistan’s regional policies are not just security-centric but are rather all inclusive with special economic orientation, since economic prosperity is the key to solve the problems of people who are suffering from inadequacies.
The Prime Minister comprehensively outlined Pakistan’s commitment to the SCO’s objectives which are to make joint efforts to ensure peace and stability in the region; strengthen neighbourliness among its member states and promote cooperation in different areas including politics, trade, economy, culture, research, technology, tourism and environmental protection. Furthermore, fighting terrorism and extremism with its sincere interest for regional peace, stability, and development is also considered primary goals of SCO. Through its objectives, the SCO hopes to build mutual trust, equality, respect for cultural diversity, and good-neighbourly relations aiming to promote effective cooperation in security, economic, social and trade-related areas.\
Moreover, SCO can provide Pakistan with opportunities in both the geo-economic and the geostrategic spheres with the Central Asian Region. The fact cannot be ignored that the Central Asia supplies around 11 percent of oil and energy to the world. Pakistan’s involvement in the SCO provides it with an opportunity to satisfy its energy requirements through regional cooperation with Central Asian member-states. Pakistan’s pending energy projects like TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline, IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline, and CASA (Central Asia-South Asia)-1000 electricity transmission projects, which are not completed so far, can get a considerable push through the SCO.
Analyzing Pakistan’s vigorous representation by its head of state, a fair conclusion can be drawn that the Prime Minister of Pakistan, via his speech at the SCO summit, paved the way for the much needed push for the ongoing projects by showing Pakistan’s commitments and devotion to SCO’s regionalism. Positive outcome can be expected after the CHG’s meeting and Pakistan’s vital representation. Undoubtedly, SCO can ensure peace and stability in the region by making joint efforts. Pakistan is looking forward to lead such efforts. Pakistan is also committed to implement all the proposals which were mentioned by Mr. Abbasi to serve the multilaterism and goals of SCO. It also seems that Pakistan wishes to advance itself in the club by utilizing the given proposals of cooperation in different realms that can potentially serve the region in terms of peace, prosperity and economic development.