Shanghai Cooperation Organization: What is it for?

The summit of the countries that are included in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is also sometimes called the Shanghai Group of Six, took place in St.Petersburg. For the time being the SCO incorporates Russia, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

It is deemed that the meeting of the heads of the mentioned states is of great importance for one simple reason: the organization has not been conspicuous with its activity yet. Everyone knows there is such an organization in the world, but it is hard to guess, what it is actually for.

In the meantime, the organization has existed for six years. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization started its history in April of 1996, when the leaders of five countries (Russia, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan) signed the agreement on consolidation of confidence in the military field in border regions. One cannot say that it was the time, when the organization was finally shaped, it obtained its name Shanghai Cooperation Organization only in the year 2001, when there was the adequate declaration signed. Uzbekistan joined the organization the same year.

The unofficial objective of the organization is to contradict to the growing influence of the United States in the region. Russia and China are the two countries, which were interested at a greater extent in it, to be more precise. The rest members of the SCO perceived their membership as a guarantee to protect themselves from Islamic radical groups and from China’s aspiration to get more influence in the region too. The economic development in the region within the framework of the SCO was also declared. Nevertheless, it is too early to talk about the results of such cooperation. A lot of home and Western experts believe that China’s leading role in the SCO was indisputable, and this is true, maybe. If Beijing stops its participation in the organization, then there is absolutely no point in it. But China is interested in the SCO now, and we have to say that China is gradually extending the sphere of its influence. No problem can be solved in the Asian-Pacific region without China’s participation today. Beijing apparently decided to further strengthen its influence in the countries of Central Asia.

There are reasons why. As it is well known, the presence of the American army in Central Asia is a big concern for China. There were several documents signed at the summit in St.Petersburg apparently for creating a certain counterbalance to that presence. First of all, this is the charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which will give an opportunity to register the SCO in the UN as a regional organization. Secondly, this is the political declaration, which will give the answer to the question of principles that the organization will be based on in the future. Thirdly, it is supposed that there should be the Regional anti-terrorist structure set up, which was predictable against the background of the current events. It seems that this structure will be established in order to show to the USA that the states of the region will be able to fight with terrorism without anyone else’s help. However, all of those things are referred to China first and foremost. The Russian president has repeatedly stated that before that he did not see any tragedy in the presence of the American army on the territory of Central Asia. The leaders of other countries of the SCO welcomed that presence in addition to the Collective Security Treaty, which also had a goal to fight against terrorism. So, will there be a difference between the mentioned regional anti-terrorist structure and the Collective Security Treaty?

Almost all leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization stressed out that the organization should not be considered as a military alliance, notwithstanding the establishment of the regional anti-terrorist structure. The SCO is open for other countries. India is reportedly going to join it soon, but this information has not been confirmed yet.

The future will show, if the SCO is viable or not. So far its members sign declarations, so far the SCO is like the Commonwealth of Independent States – everyone knows about it, but no one knows what it is for.

Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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