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Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Role in Afghanistan

Pranjal Rastogi writes, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit is going to be held in June 2018 at Qingdao, China

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic, and security organisation, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in ShanghaiChina by the leaders of ChinaKazakhstanKyrgyzstanRussiaTajikistan, and Uzbekistan; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter was signed in June 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003.[1] These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five group, founded on 26 April 1996 in Shanghai. India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 at a summit in AstanaKazakhstan.

During SCO summit in Moscow which was attended by all its 6 members along with representatives from the Group of Eight countries, NATO, the European Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference on march 2009, the talks for giving membership to Afghanistan was initiated first time in SCO. Although USA acknowledged China and Russia’s request for making Afghanistan a permanent member of SCO, it never wanted Afghanistan to be full time member of the organisation. The reason for the recent shift in USA policy for Afghanistan for approving Moscow and Beijing presence could be the USA’s military failure to curb drug production and terrorism.

The goal which drives SCO interest in Afghanistan is to end USA‘s presence in the region and to lay foundations of a new regional balance in competition with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Another possible reason is to counter terrorism in Afghanistan which affects the peace and stability of its neighbouring countries such as India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, which also are SCO members.

One cannot ignore the strategic importance of geopolitical position of Afghanistan in Central Asia for the expansion of influence of Beijing and Moscow in Central Asia .Another factor which drives Chinese interest in the region is Ainak city in the Logar Province. It has the world’s second most copper deposits. Recently China got the tender to develop Ainak and also got the rights to access the natural gas from Northern part of Afghanistan for powering Ainak project.

Until the Moscow summit in January 2011, Kabul did its best to dodge the question about the possibility of its accession to the SCO, citing its status of a non-aligned state. But now it has changed its stance because it has become obvious that the problem of Afghanistan cannot be solved without resolving its Pakistani element. So for Kabul, the SCO is also a mechanism for putting pressure on Islamabad, especially given the new agreement on strategic cooperation with Beijing. If Islamabad is going to listen to anyone, it will be Beijing. Afghanistan is aware of the fact that SCO going to next economic hub in future, hence Afghanistan doesn’t want to lose the opportunity for boosting trade with SCO members which will also bring economic prosperity.

There is another consideration. Turkey joining the SCO as a dialog partner is seen by experts as a “watershed” moment, meaning that Turkey, being a NATO member, is acceding the organization that is supposed to oppose it. This has encouraged Kabul to join SCO.

Afghanistan entry reiterated the SCO’s position that while it is opposed to the expansion of U.S. military interests in Central Asia, it is willing to expand cooperation with the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan, even as none of the SCO members is prepared to send troops to Afghanistan. The entry reinforced the SCO as the leading regional security force.



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