Shanghai Cooperation Organization Prospects

By Arthur Dunn

This year the Shanghai Cooperation Organization celebrates the 10th anniversary from the date of its establishment.  The oncoming anniversary is a good reason to assess the solvency of this regional project and alleged scenarios of its development.

The anniversary Summit of the Organization shall be held in the capital of Kazakhstan, the SCO Chairman, which according to the experts has played more significant role within regional and global policy in recent years. It’s enough to recollect its last year OSCE chairmanship. It was of historic importance at least because it has managed to break stereotypes. It was the first time in the history when the Organization was headed by the former USSR state, and which is more important the state representing Turkic world. In terms of crisis of European multiculturalism this was a jolt of fresh air. Views of specialists and diplomats regarding the SCO and its efficiency are extremely diverse, often contradicting each other.

The existing viewpoints can be easily drawn to main two. According to them the future of this institution is observed either optimistic or on the contrary the SCO is fated to gradual but steady decline. Officially Beijing, Moscow and Astana consider that the SCO has gradually turned from advising body into “one of the most powerful regional unions, which is able to solve a wide range of international problems”.  Although during unofficial talks the same Russian diplomats are more moderate with their estimations. But still we agree that the Organization, despite popular skeptic evaluations, has become the entity of international policy, was acknowledged as the one by the today’s sole world leader – the USA, as well as Europe, Japan, India. By this India lately has revealed the intention to join the SCO. Many experts think that the project was a success as well as the Organization itself.

There are adopted documents, functioning bodies, within the frameworks of which they hold active field consultations, developing common regional approach. Last documents issued by the SCO already include the principles of building the architecture of security in the region. The idea itself of some political international unification of state of Eurasian continent is a mature one and has been considered through centuries. It was important to formalize and institutionalize it. And the development of international affairs after the USSR collapse allowed it. The question was who will be the initiator of the project and which will be the model of the institution to be established.

As for the initiator there have been no various alternatives – China, which actively shapes its new international policy. Russia, as another significant player could play and played the role of only the “play-up” Although during the epoch of Y. Primakov the project of geopolitical alliance “China – India - Russia” was formulated as strategic imperative. In this case considering the disagreements and tension within the line “India - China” the role of main, key partner would belong Russia automatically. However Russia has never had international resource and weight to accomplish such amazing project. The idea was absolutely realistic and based on the postulates of inevitable geopolitical competition between Russia and the USA, but Russia’s power is not enough to participate in this competition.

Short history of the SCO development allows saying that only economic development profile of the Organization was fulfilled, which also completely corresponds current intentions of China. This is persistently emphasized by Chinese experts and analysts. However, one can also observe an obvious disagreement behind it, as China still prefers to accomplish economic projects on bilateral ground, without involving multilateral format. The SCO still is urgent for China rather in the sphere of big policy than trade and economy.

Another contradiction, comprised in the leadership of China, is of ideological character. In other words, the SCO leader is the country that has proclaimed itself as socialistic, communistic, although in specific, but still pretty orthodox version. The state, which figuratively speaking “in course of the greatest geopolitical disaster of the USSR took up the banner of socialism leader”. The upholders of left-wing ideas note, that the SCO and current leadership of China potentially suggest an alternative model in comparison with the currently dominating liberal ideology. Developing their own ideas, the experts that support the left-wing paradigm, give an example of intensive global crisis, which turns from financial and economic into general civilization crisis. Here derives the assurance that the SCO is one of the elements of strategic alternative of the current American version of international economic and political system. The China itself cultivates the kind of approach for domestic use, so to say.

Remaining tension and contraction in Afghanistan are still one of the main sources of security and stability threats. According to experts, a significant part of all opiates in the world is produced within the territory of this country, which automatically includes all neighboring states into the risk zone. Exactly for this reason the cooperation within the sphere of drugs business contraction lies within a special focus. The members of the Organization work together to prevent illegal drugs traffic.

Regarding other threats coming from Afghanistan – terrorism and extremism, than the SCO leads quite a logic policy in this direction. Without interfering into domestic affairs of IRA, it assures security within the borders perimeter. And if the troops of this formation penetrate into the responsibility area of the Organization, they will be correspondently welcomed. Warcraft of the divisions of the SCO member-states improves constantly. Thus last year they held other anti-terror military trainings “Peacekeeping Mission - 2010”.

Main legal document of the Organization in the sphere of security assurance is the “Program of Cooperation of the SCO Member-States within Struggle against Non-Conventional Security Threats”. China in recent years has expressed the readiness to enhance this direction of cooperation. In particular, during the meeting of the Secretaries of Security Councils of the SCO member-states in 2010 in Tashkent the Minister of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China Meng Jianzhu declared that China is ready to undertake urgent and significant steps. Today the experts suggest considering within the SCO frameworks the procedure of adoption of preventive (political-diplomatic) measures to prevent the security threats: to sign the corresponding treaty, which would establish the mechanism of political decision-making, and also of rapid reaction on emergency situation. But it is not a fact that the member-states will be able to find the consensus easily and especially to establish effective system. These issues are too sensitive, the states are to worried to delegate at least some authority to the body with the domination of one fast-developing state, which has its own pretty specific regional interests.

As we have already noted, most researchers traditionally mention about the existence of competition, rivalry between the two big members of the body – Russia and China. Each of them, grounding on their own interests, has its own vision of the trajectory of the SCO development. Observers also note that recently the disagreements have only flourished and which is the most important will grow further.

In the essence, considering official statements, the contradictions can be drawn to two versions. China suggests the deepening of economic interaction within the frameworks of the SCO and Russia in its turn promotes the concept of extension of the abilities of the Organization within contracting modern security threats.

According to the common view, China occupies the key position in this regional game. It’s hard to refute of the idea that the development of this state, formed and forming approaches towards the international and regional cooperation, global ambitions will significantly influence the SCO future.

The issue of the SCO expansion was considered during the Summit of the Heads of the states of the Organization in Tashkent, where they adopted the “Provision on the Order of New Members Acceptation into the Organization”, which became the beginning of the process of development of legal ground to expand the member list of the Organization by inclusion of other states that oblige themselves to observe the goals and principles of the SCO Charter. At the moment, the Council of national coordinators develops a standard memorandum and other documents, regulating legal, Organizational and financial aspects of the membership in the Organization for the newly-joint states. But this matter is also not that simple.

Specification of the order, demands, criteria of acceptation and membership in the Organization, stipulated in the adopted provision has automatically excluded the issue of Iran inclusion into the SCO from the agenda.  In the near future Iran will not be able to become a full member of the SCO as the UNO imposed sanctions toward the IRI. This demand is one of eight conditions, introduced by potential SCO members.

In 2011 the term of moratorium on accepting the SCO claimants expires. On this occasion the expert community of the SCO member-states has a popular idea about the inexpedience of the Organization’s expansion at this stage: any expansion, especially considering the motivation of each applicant-state, will inevitably introduce new problems to the Organization.

Supporting the need to expand the Organization, each of the SCO member-states has its own vision of the situation. Russia from time to time demonstrates its involvement into the inclusion of India into the SCO. In particular during the Tashkent Summit  D. Medvedev stated that the SCO expansion with big states would promote the strengthening of the power of this Organization.

Mongolia has the best chance to become a permanent member of the SCO. This country, loyal to Russia as well as to China, in comparison with other observes, considers the SCO exceptionally as a mean to develop regional, economic and energy cooperation. However, we should keep in mind, that its inclusion into the SCO can also impose significant difficulties. The joining of Mongolia is able to incite dissatisfaction from other applicants. In this respect, the experts of the corresponding SCO working group, reasoning the acceptation of Mongolia as a permanent member, suggest to state clearly the criteria explaining why others (India and Pakistan) can’t be accepted.

Grounding on the slogan “10 years on the way of security and cooperation” Kazakhstan has managed to intensify the SCO activity, which is recognized by its other members. More than a hundred joint events have been held and aimed at promotion of interaction of member-states of the Organization within definite directions of cooperation. It’s noteworthy that the SCO develops close interaction with other international and regional Organizations.

Also the list of Kazakhstan merits also can be added with the fact that in December 2010 they initiated and adopted the Resolution of the UNO General Assembly “On Cooperation between the UNO and the SCO”.

During the oncoming Summit of the SCO the members of the Organization plan to adopt a number of documents, defining main directions of the SCO development for the following decade.

The observes focus on two moments, within which probably the applied trajectory of this contradictory regional project will develop.

It is the anti-drugs strategy for 2011-2016 approved by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Although many experts and politicians assess its accomplishment pretty skeptically due to various reasons, nevertheless there is a common understanding that drugs-traffic after being threat itself has turned into the powerful source of international terrorism. And that is why the SCO should make the solution of this problem a priority. It’s significant that the SCO closely cooperates within the listed spheres with other international and regional Organizations. Also the list of Kazakhstan merits also can be added with the fact that in December 2010 they initiated and adopted the Resolution of the UNO General Assembly “On Cooperation between the UNO and the SCO”. The Organization also will have to intensify the development of energy cooperation.

Many people foresee definite promotion within this direction.

Also because energy cooperation on hydro-carbons and nuclear power is a part of Chinese global national strategy. Indicative from this viewpoint is the extension of Chinese presence within oil and gas industries of Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Sudan, Uzbekistan, states of Persian Gulf.

Kazakhstan thinks that in future the Organization should focus equally on the development of the three main directions of its activity – security, economic and humanitarian cooperation.

Among the initiatives to be accomplished – establishment of special account or the so-called development fund to finance project activity of the SCO.

In the view of wide scale natural disasters, and tragic events in Japan, the member-states suggest to revise the initiative of Kazakhstan to establish in Astana the SCO center to prevent and eliminate the results of emergency situations.

These and many other issues shall be discussed during the Summit, which according to the SCO member-states, shall become another stage within the history of the Organization’s development.