Editor's note: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has become an important platform for member states to increase cultural exchanges and promote mutual understanding. Accordingly, China and the other SCO members have deepened strategic mutual trust, strengthened anti-terrorism cooperation, expanded the fields for cooperation and improved cooperation mechanisms. Three experts share their views on the issue with China Daily.
(MA XUEJING / CHINA DAILY)
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization will be held in India via video link on July 4 at a critical time. Since the SCO member states, rather the whole world, are facing increasing challenges such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Russia-US geopolitical confrontation, and the United States has been instigating bloc confrontation in the region, there have been speculations that the SCO might end up becoming an organization without substantial influence.
The SCO was established in 2001 for combating extremism, terrorism and separatism, drug trafficking and other transnational crimes and tackling other non-traditional security challenges in Asia, especially Central Asia. With the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, multi-level mechanisms, joint anti-terrorism exercises, and deepening cooperation in law enforcement and security, the SCO has helped improve regional security.
The organization has had a positive influence on regional economic cooperation and cultural exchanges as well, and helped member states to make greater efforts to further ease the flow of trade, investment and transportation, and create platforms for interaction between nongovernmental organizations.
Among the biggest contributions the SCO has made to the region and the member states is the Shanghai Spirit which stresses equality and consultation, opposes hegemonism and Cold War mentality, promotes multilateral cooperation, and pursues a new cooperation model of seeking partners without building alliances. This has helped extend the SCO's influence far beyond the region, across the world.
In recent years, the SCO has been facing increasing internal and external challenges, especially after new members joined it as full members, expanding the geographical space for cooperation. While heightening international tensions have created security threats for the region, increasing differences and interests among SCO member states have further complicated the problem. In particular, the US' efforts to co-opt India as a "loyal partner", if not an ally, to further its "Indo-Pacific" strategy, whose aim is to contain China and weaken Russia, are not conducive to the SCO making coordinated, cohesive decisions.
Other prominent challenges include the situation in Afghanistan, which demands immediate attention but has mostly been ignored due to the Ukraine crisis, and border disputes between member states such as that between India and Pakistan have impeded SCO cooperation. Also, the US-led media war to stigmatize China, Russia and Iran has turned some people against these countries, making it difficult for the SCO to deepen cooperation among its member states. The US has also triggered or incited "color revolutions" in some SCO member states, destabilizing the socioeconomic and political systems in those countries, which has affected decision-making within the SCO.
But the challenges do not mean the SCO will fail in its mission. In fact, the organization has been making efforts to adapt to the changing situation and overcome the challenges.
However, the organization should continue following the policy of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and avoid becoming a tool of geopolitical confrontation, while the member states should help build a closer regional community with a shared future. And since most member states have common security concerns, which include a deteriorating external environment, they should work together to address traditional and non-traditional security challenges.
In fields where pan-securitization has yielded fruit, the SCO should promote interaction among its member states to expand economic exchanges because economic recovery is directly linked to improvement in people's livelihoods, which is necessary to maintain social and political stability. For instance, the SCO should establish an internal cooperation mechanism to help maintain the stability of regional industry and supply chains, deepen cooperation in the digital economy, promote innovation and e-commerce, encourage member states to conduct trade in their domestic currencies, increase people-to-people exchanges, and expand multilateral cooperation.
Cooperation mechanisms should also be established in other key fields to improve connectivity, and ensure energy and food security, better protect the environment and ecology, facilitate green development and alleviate poverty.
As for increasing governance efficiency, the SCO should give full play to the advantages of multi-level coordination, and strengthen the political and legal foundation of the SCO's different bodies, while the members should continue upholding the principles of the SCO Charter and the SCO Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation.
In fact, given the increasingly complex regional situation, the SCO should help establish a broader network of partnerships, and work with the United Nations and the international community to build a regional order based on cooperation and mutual respect, in order to prevent the spillover effects of the Ukraine crisis from weakening the organization or sparking disputes among member states or between member states and non-regional powers, and promote common development.
The author is the director of the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.