WEB DESK:The Shanghai Cooperation Organization emerged from an earlier pact that took place in 1996, with the purpose of settling border disputes in Central Asia that arose in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union.
However the growing hegemony of the United States of America in global and regional politics has driven Russian and Chinese leadership to work closer together, despite sometimes competing interests. Political scientists expect the two countries to remain on a path of convergence as long as the US hegemony remains.
Coming from this background, the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is expected to grow into a much more cogent organization for regional issues. Some have even argued that in time, it may grow to rival the influence of the United Nations.
While that may appear far-fetched, it is worth noting that the members of the SCO already represent about one quarter of the worlds population. As soon as Pakistan and India attain full membership instead of the current observer status (this change is expected in current SCO summit), this tally will jump to about half of all people on Earth!
In recent years, the SCO has expanded focus beyond border security towards intelligence sharing, counter terrorism and economic cooperation. As far as the first two aspects are concerned, Pakistans inclusion as a full member is expected to add impetus to the fight against rising religious extremism in China, Russia and some Central Asian states.
The SCO is a conduit for economic cooperation as well, since Russia and China are both actively pursuing aspirations of developing regional logistics infrastructure to strengthen their global trade; although China has snatched the lead there.
Given this context, the inclusion of Pakistan into SCO as a full member cannot be relegated as an inconsequential occurrence. If diplomacy plays its due role, the elevation in status within the organization can help Pakistan tap Central Asia for trade; a move that could counter the current fixation on trade with Western economies only.
Iran will also be granted membership of the forum once international sanctions on that country are lifted. Active participation in SCO would ensure Pakistan is a component of any recipe to help Iran revitalize regional trade as soon as the shackles are gone.
The current summit brings another potential opportunity; one that has not been highlighted much in mainstream media in Pakistan or India. The leaders of both countries are expected to meet on the sidelines at a time when bilateral relations are once again, strained.
Although unlikely, thawing relations through such encounters could bring positive results in curtailing insurgency in Balochistan and allow Pakistan to focus single-mindedly on the western borders.
The Prime Minister is often criticized for accumulating so many frequent flyer miles while there are many internal challenges to address. But even the critics would hold the ragging if trips to the East help boost trade with Russia (which is miniscule despite Russias booming international trade) and opens up Pakistans economy to Central Asian states.
One of the oft repeated mantras about the countrys geo-strategic importance revolves around its ability to connect land locked Central Asia to the world. The SCO summit in Ufa is an opportunity to work towards realizing that potential.
Source: BR research