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The 17th SCO summit and its impacts on Afghanistan

Published Date: June 17, 2017

 

Astana, the Kazakhstani capital, hosted the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) leaders on 8 and 9 June 2017. The Afghan president Ashraf Ghani had also participated in this meeting.

Besides delivering his speech in the summit, the Afghan President met the Presidents of China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, as well as the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Secretary General of SCO at the sidelines of this conference.

SCO is a regional governmental organization, and as an important country in the region, Afghanistan is an observer in this organization since 2013 and has applied for full membership as well.

Here you would read about the background of SCO, its recent meeting in Astana, the meetings of President Ghani at the sidelines of this conference and the impacts of this conference on the issues linked to Afghanistan.

 

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Five countries in the region (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, and Tajikistan) founded “Shanghai-5” in 1996 to strengthen mutual trust, demilitarize borders, and fight terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and the separatism. Later, when in 2001, Uzbekistan joined the “Shanghai-5”, it altered to “Shanghai Cooperation Organization”. The charter of SCO was signed on 15 June 2002 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The primary objectives of this organization are to strengthen mutual trust between member states, promote active cooperation in various fields, undertake joint effort towards maintaining peace and stability in the region and move towards a democratic, just and logical international political and economic order. [1]

Currently, the organization has eight permanent members (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan)[i] and four observers (Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus, and Mongolia). Besides that six other countries (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Seri Lanka) are the dialogue partners of this organization.

The recent SCO meeting in Astana

Besides other issues, the current situation in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Ukraine and Afghanistan was also discussed in the 17th summit of SCO.

India and Pakistan gained permanent membership in this meeting which indicates the increasing significance of the organization. The Syrian crisis was also discussed and its settlement through negotiations was highly emphasized upon. The Ukraine issue and Iran’s nuclear program were also other  important issues discussed in this conference.[2]

All the leaders in this meeting reiterated that the only way out of the existing conflicts and tensions in the region was through diplomatic means and in this regard they expressed their commitments. Also, the participants supported the efforts of the Afghan people and government to establish a stable government and fight against “terrorism”, extremism, and narcotics.   

 

Afghan efforts to get Regional Cooperation Since 2012, Afghanistan participates in the meetings of this organization as an observer state. Most recently, a high-ranking Afghan delegation headed by President Ghani took part in its summit. The Afghan National Security Advisor Hanif Atamar, the Afghan President’s Senior Advisor in Infrastructure Affairs Humayoun Qayomi, the Afghan President’s Special Representative in the Commonwealth countries’ affairs Shaker Kargar, and the senior advisor Shah Zaman Maiwandi accompanied the President in this trip.

Addressing the leaders of SCO, the Afghan President said at the summit: “I am here to announce the increase in cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Practical measures need to be taken against the terrorism that threatens the countries in the region including Afghanistan.” He added that Afghanistan was at the frontline of the fight against terrorism and that currently 20 “terrorist” groups were fighting against the Afghan government and was costing Afghan lives- something that Ghani repeatedly say in international tribunes. Ghani also stated that “We expect SCO to work on the strategy to fight against terrorism and drug smuggling.” He also suggested in the meeting that, based on a specific mechanism, the regional countries must define are supporting  “terrorism” and the trans-regional terrorism

He also stated that Afghanistan had good economic, trade and transit relations with Turkmenistan and the relations with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, and Azerbaijan are improving. He also added relations between Afghanistan, Iran, and India are advancing and that the Chabahar Port was one of the transit and trade initiatives between the three countries. He said, “Our main objective is to connect the Central Asia to South Asia and, in this regard, Pakistan must also play and improve its role.” [3]

 

Impacts and achievements for Afghanistan

SCO is the most important organization in the region and, hence, the recent meeting has some achievement for Kabul and would have certainly impact Afghanistan:

First, at the sidelines of this conference, President Ghani met some leaders and officials of various countries. The most important of these meetings was the meeting between Ghani and the Chinese President Xi Jinping. In this meeting, the Chinese president said that China is ready to cooperate with Afghanistan in supplying the necessary equipment to the Afghan security and defense forces to fight against “terrorism”.  Moreover, he  said that China is ready to hold a trilateral meeting between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China.

In addition China and Afghanistan signed two cooperation agreements for reconstruction of railway network from Shirkhan Port to Herat and implementation of the electricity project on Kabul-Kunar River. [4]  

Second, currently the relations between Kabul and Islamabad are in the most tenuous state, and the two countries accuse each other of giving sanctuaries to terrorists. However, the leader of the two countries met on the sidelines of this conference and discussed various issues. In this meeting, the two sides agreed to use the mechanism of quadrilateral coordination group and bilateral meetings for strong and specific measures against “terrorist” groups. The Indian Prime Minister also said that, in coordination with its allies the US and Afghanistan, India is ready to support Afghanistan in maintaining peace and stability.

Third, Afghanistan’s full membership in this organization is another important issue. India and Pakistan gained permanent membership in this meeting which further facilitates Afghanistan’s membership in this organization. In the meanwhile, the Afghan President also met the Secretary General of SCO. The SCO Secretary General said, “We have a particular attention towards Afghanistan, and this organization wants peace and security in Afghanistan because Afghanistan has the appropriate capacity for a bright future.” He also emphasized on the expansion of relations between Afghanistan and the member countries of this organization. [5]

Fourth, the Kabul process was also supported by the participants in the 17th summit of SCO, and they considered the Kabul process to be an important step towards peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Fifth, the Presidents of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan also stressed on the economic and trade cooperation between their respective countries and Afghanistan. The Uzbek President suggested the formation of a joint economic commission to expand trade between the two countries. [6]

[1] Shanghai cooperation organization web: “about SCO” at: http://eng.sectsco.org/about_sco/

[2] Shanghai cooperation organization web: ”Press release on the results of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Heads of State Council Meeting”, 09 June 2017, see it online:

http://eng.sectsco.org/news/20170609/289274.html

[3] The Afghan Presidential Palace, «رئیس جمهور غنی در هفدهمین اجلاس سران سازمان همکاری‌های شانگهای اشتراک و سخنرانی کرد» [The Afghan President participated and delivered his speech in the 17th SCO meeting], 19 Jawza 1396: 

http://president.gov.af/fa/SHNGAI/17

 

[4] Presidential Palace, President Ghani Meets With President Of People’s Republic Of China, June 9, 2017, read online:

http://president.gov.af/fa/news-0608

[5] Read about the Afghan President’s meeting with the SCO’s secretary general in Persian here:

http://president.gov.af/fa/news/92

[6] Read about president Ghani’s meeting with the Uzbek President here:

http://president.gov.af/fa/AFUZ/9

 

 

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