By Seymur Mammadov
The summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in the capital of Kyrgyzstan – Bishkek opened a new page in the interaction of eight countries – Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan.
Following the meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, 22 joint documents were signed.
Today, the SCO member countries are faced with completely new challenges and threats of a global nature, and their elimination is possible only by joint efforts. It is not by chance that the Bishkek Declaration of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization states that the SCO members believe that the growing and acquiring cross-border nature of threats and security threats require special attention, close coordination and constructive interaction of the world community. It is emphasized that we are talking about terrorism, the spread of terrorist and extremist ideology, the returning foreign terrorists, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the risk of an arms race. In addition, SCO members call unresolved regional and local conflicts undermining the international security system, drug trafficking, organized crime, human trafficking, crime in the field of information and others.
But it seems to me that a great deal of work should first of all be carried out in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the arms race. Why? Because in recent years, some countries have been heavily embroiled in an arms race, mainly USA, Russia, India, China, Turkey. If not for the US sanctions, Iran would also be actively involved in this one. I believe that the fight against the arms race, the reduction of military spending should be one of the priorities of the SCO.
The second important point that the SCO member states should pay attention to is the creation of a single economic space, taking into account the interests of all countries involved in this one. The Chinese initiative “One Belt, One Road” can take on this role. Unfortunately, not everything is simple in this matter. India is against participation in this project. If the conflicting sides – India and China can be in a single integration association like the SCO, then why not settle the territorial dispute among themselves? Can the SCO bring economic or other benefits to the region if territorial disputes between China and India, Pakistan and India still remain unresolved? Therefore, it is very important to resolve territorial disputes, which will create the possibility of expanding economic ties at both bilateral and multilateral levels.
Regarding the participation of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the SCO summit in Bishkek, the Pakistani Prime Minister held fruitful meetings in both bilateral and multilateral formats. As Imran Khan noted, today Pakistan provides a vital link between the East, Central Asia, China and the rest of Asia. Firstly, Pakistan has a huge market and resources, and secondly, Pakistan has extensive experience in the fight against terrorism and can contribute to the fight against this evil in Eurasia. Thirdly, peace and respect for its neighbors and other countries also lies at the basis of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan does pursue a peace-loving policy in the region. Let us recall the crisis that occurred in relations between India and Pakistan in February of this year. Pakistani authorities released the captive Indian pilot as a peaceful gesture. Such a gesture by Imran Khan has improved the image of Pakistan in the eyes of the world community. In world politics, such cases are extremely rare.
The SCO summit showed that Pakistan pursues a successful foreign policy in Eurasia. First, Pakistan is friends with China, which are linked to each other by a very large project — the China-Pakistan economic corridor, which is part of the Chinese initiative “One Belt, One Road”. Imran Khan’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a warm and friendly atmosphere is a clear testimony to that.
Secondly, Pakistan has a trusting relationship with Russia. Imran Khan briefly spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders of the countries talked during the pre-session photographing ceremony. Putin and Khan exchanged a few phrases. Earlier, in an interview with RIA Novosti, Khan said that he intended to meet with Putin at the summit. He also said that he expects to visit Russia on an official visit. Khan noted that Pakistan is interested in arms purchases from Russia and the Pakistani military is already in contact with Russian colleagues on this issue.
In recent years, there have been positive trends in Russian-Pakistani relations. Bilateral intergovernmental relations were significantly intensified both in the context of Pakistan’s accession to the SCO, and in the context of resolving the situation in Afghanistan. Relations between Russia and Pakistan in various fields are on the rise, in particular, military-technical cooperation is developing. It is important to note that there is active cooperation between the ministries of defense. In the summer of 2018, bilateral military exercises “Friendship – 2018” took place in the mountains of Pakistan. In February 2019, Russia was represented at the Aman international naval exercises conducted by the Pakistan Navy.
At the SCO summit, Imran Khan held a meeting with Kyrgyz President Soronbai Zheenkov. This meeting will serve as an additional impetus for improving bilateral cooperation in various fields, including trade and the economy. Because this is the first visit of Imran Khan to Central Asia after taking office as a new prime minister in August 2018. A number of Central Asian countries, including Kyrgyzstan, are showing interest in the Sino-Pakistani corridor.
The port of Gwadar is strategically located because it connects South and Central Asia, and the Middle East, as well as being the most important part of the ancient Silk Road linking China with three old continents (Asia, Europe and Africa). Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan is only $ 5 billion, but Pakistan intends to increase it to $ 20 billion over the next several years. Kyrgyzstan is interested in expanding trade and economic cooperation with Pakistan and in the supply of textiles and pharmaceutical products from this country. For example, Pakistan may establish pharmaceutical plants in Kyrgyzstan. Although the market of Kyrgyzstan is small, but this country is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Armenia. Pakistan should also develop and strengthen trade and economic relations with the rest of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. They could join the project – the Sino-Pakistani corridor, which would bring big dividends to these countries. China and Pakistan should work together to find new Central Asian investors for the Sino-Pakistani corridor.
Another area of cooperation with the countries of Central Asia is tourism. Tourism in Pakistan is one of the important components of the country’s budget. The tourism industry serves both Pakistanis and foreign visitors. Historical relics, beautiful beaches of the Arabian Sea, medical resorts, ancient monuments of architecture, Islamic shrines and much more make tourism in Pakistan attractive to many tourists. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world visit Pakistan every year. Wazir Khan Mosque, Badshahi Mosque, Pearl Mosque attract Muslims. In addition, in Islamabad is one of the largest mosques in the world – Faisal.
Thus, summing up the above, I want to note that the international prestige of Pakistan in the world is growing. Russia, China, Belarus, Central Asian countries are attaching increasing importance to cooperation with Pakistan. Today, Pakistan’s relations with these countries are becoming stronger and expanding both bilaterally and multilaterally against the background of American pressure on Eastern countries. Here, of course, it is important to note the successful foreign policy and a peace-loving policy of Pakistan.
The writer is the director of the international expert club EurAsiaAz and editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani news agency Vzglyad.az.