МОСКВА, 22 сентября 2021, Институт РУССТРАТ.
The session of the Council of Heads of the SCO member states held on September 17, 2021, was not just an anniversary. It convincingly demonstrated the achievement of a principled qualitative transition of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation from a small purely advisory council on border issues to the level of a structure capable of effectively solving complex security problems of the entire Asian region.
A clear example of this is the joint declaration adopted in Dushanbe, as well as three dozen other international agreements signed as a result of the work.
In particular, the participants were able to form a unified position on Afghanistan, today, perhaps, the most difficult “Gordian knot” of all Central Asia. From the two options – everyone comes to an understanding with the Taliban themselves, and everyone acts from a single common position – the leaders of the participating countries chose the latter. “We don’t need big games in Eurasia, we need partnership and security in the region,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin, summing up the result.
As follows from the text of the Dushanbe Declaration, “the SCO stands for the construction of a new Afghan government that includes representatives of all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society. It is also emphasised that the SCO member states stand for the formation of Afghanistan as an independent, neutral, unified, democratic and peaceful state, free from terrorism, war and drugs.”
The participants of the summit in Dushanbe supported the idea of creating a SCO humanitarian hub in Almaty to deliver international aid to Afghanistan to solve urgent humanitarian and economic problems of this country. We are talking about allowing international humanitarian organisations to open their Central Asian representative offices there. The UNESCO Cluster Office for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for Central Asia and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan also received an invitation to participate in the project.
In short, the SCO is ready to provide the necessary assistance and support to the Afghan state, but on condition that the Taliban who seized power there first fulfil their obligations to form a government that takes into account the interests of all national and religious groups of the country, as well as in terms of suppressing drug trafficking.
However, Afghanistan was far from the only important issue discussed in Dushanbe. The parties made many other decisions in the field of international relations, finance, science, technology, technology and innovation.
In addition, the composition of the Organisation has expanded. A very important decision was made – Iran changed its status from an observer to a permanent member, thereby bringing the number of participating states in the SCO to 21.
At first glance, the change of Iran’s status from an observer to a member of the SCO does not change much in terms of the likelihood of an attack on it by Israel or the United States. The SCO is still a purely political, and not military alliance. However, the gradual increase in the geopolitical weight of the Organisation, even if only by a little, nevertheless adds to the risk of serious trouble for the aggressor, even such a large one as the United States, or such a “crazy” one as Israel.
Of course, no one will declare war on America because of Iran. However, the SCO members will definitely begin to slow down American initiatives, both related to the Asian region and not related to it. This is a tangible, although not too big addition to Iran’s national security.
It is important to note that today the SCO countries account for almost half of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s GDP, which is growing at a rate of 12% per year.
“The annual 12% growth rate of the combined economic power and foreign trade of the Organisation’s member countries… is an admirable ‘SCO speed’ and ‘SCO effect’,” Xi Jinping said.
China proposed to use the progressive dynamics of economic growth to create special economic zones of the SCO, relying on which the participating countries will be able to further accelerate the pace of their development. Potentially, this can form something similar to the European Union in its first version on the basis of the Shanghai Group – a political confederation of independent states united in a common economic, financial and legal space.
It is too early to say how quickly such a goal can be achieved. On the way to it, there are still quite a lot of differences in views and approaches to existing problems. For example, India and Pakistan continue to try to use the Afghan crisis as a tool to put pressure on each other. Uzbekistan is trying to stop its negative effect at the expense of Tajikistan, and so on.
However, in general, the 20th summit in Dushanbe demonstrated the superiority of the effectiveness of the SCO mechanism in solving the problems of Central Asia over the similar abilities of the UN in the region. And this is the most important thing.
In fact, we should note a clear acceleration of the transition of the “centre of the world” from Europe to Asia, with the formation of a new configuration of the international security system. Until September 17, 2021, the United Nations was its peak on the planet, now it is obvious that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is becoming the basis of the new mechanism.
It is still difficult to assess the prospects of the developing process for Russia. If it goes in the direction of replacing the UN, then there are more minuses than pluses in it. The dominance of China is too great in the new design. But since the process itself is just beginning to take shape, Russia may well achieve the status of an arbitrator in geopolitical issues that cause friction between China and other SCO members.