ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Pakistan is attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that kicked off its 11th prime ministerial meeting in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on Tuesday.
This SCO meeting is considered very important in reference to the post-US withdrawal situation from Afghanistan.
Constant requests from Afghanistan to include it in the SCO indicates that Afghanistan needs constant financial support as well as military support from other actors like Russia when Americans are planning to leave the hostile country, leaving the Afghan government to fight alone with the Taliban buildup. The US is planning to leave only 15,000 forces after post withdrawal in the year 2014, while Afghanistan understands that its forces, along with only 15,000 ISAF and American forces, will not be enough to fight with Taliban fighters.
Sources claim that Afghanistan is requesting the SCO to install its own security forces on its borders and help Afghanistan as it did Tajikistan during the uprising in the Gorno Badakshan autonomous province. However, it is only possible when Afghanistan is accepted as full member of SCO, not only as an observer.
The second important point in this meeting is the fate of Iran as a full member. If Iran is accepted as a full member, then it will be difficult for the western world to bully Iran, because it will be backed by the SCO - two strong members physically being Russia and China.
Regional experts are of the view that if the SCO gives full membership to Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, then the SCO will reach Southeast Asia and will become the strongest entity in the region. In case Turkmenistan is also provided full membership, then it will be easier to use the China Silk Road to reach Europe via Turkey. Also, this bloc will become "one entity" having border links to all its members.
The two-day summit brings together premiers from China, Russia, and four Central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, while Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India are attending as observers. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Kazakh Premier Serik Akhmetov, and Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov are attending the event, while Uzbekistan has sent its Deputy Prime Minister, Rustam Azimov, for negotiations.
The six-member SCO intends to flesh out pledges and commitments made by their countries' presidents at the SCO Summit in Beijing in June. The organization accepted Afghanistan as an observer state at the summit, and also adopted 10 agreements on peace, prosperity, medium-term development of the organization, and responses to threats to regional security.
Regional experts maintain that the December meeting has important points on its agenda including a multilateral action plan of external security measures to 2016 that was proposed by China and is expected to be signed off on by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia.
The regional security body hopes to cobble together a unified strategy on curbing terrorism and extremism to fill the security gap created when NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014. The intergovernmental grouping is also eager to formally establish a regional mechanism to face economic and political challenges in their changing area of power.
It may be mentioned that during the June 2012 meeting, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, was of the view that the SCO should enhance security cooperation, deepen economic cooperation, encourage people-to-people exchanges, and open itself up to outside parties and international organizations. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, and Uzbek President Islam Karimov also addressed the summit. Leaders and officials from the four SCO observer countries of Mongolia, Iran, Pakistan, and India, as well as Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, also delivered speeches at the June 2012 meeting. China took a firm stance over the Iranian nuclear program in the June 2012 meeting when Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and told him that it is China's persistent policy to solve Iranian nuclear issues through dialogues and cooperation.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an intergovernmental mutual-security organization which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Except for Uzbekistan, the other countries had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organization.