On June 23, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization had a meeting between the Heads of the State Councils in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent. Whenever this happens, there is a wave of international public opinion regarding future discussions on cooperation. This year is the 15th anniversary of the SCO establishment, which is an appropriate time to provide some reviews and prospects of the organization.
India and Pakistan will formally join the organization at the summit by signing the SCO memorandum of obligations, which is a critical step for the two countries that are becoming key members of the organization. If an organization has the tendency to expand, it must have its own kind of attractions that demonstrate good prospects.
Since the SCO’s establishment in 2001, the West has continuously poured cold water on it. The West noted many problems within the SCO, such as the differences in member states’ values, levels of development, sizes of the countries and the lack of leadership in traditional senses.
Nevertheless, the SCO made its way step-by-step amid such criticisms by the West. It did not make any shocking moves, nor did it announce to the world any surprising plans. The SCO, however, achieved many things that many extraterritorial organizations could not have done by becoming the pillar of regional security. The SCO seemed content with the reality of “innately low level of integration” between its member states, and it builds its future on this “relatively poor foundation.”
What exactly is the SCO anyway? If we compare the SCO with alliances of the West, the SCO will be difficult to understand. In the West, some people refer to the SCO as the “Eastern NATO,” which is fundamentally ridiculous. It is not the EU, not ASEAN; it is not an “alliance,” but a “cooperation organization.” The cooperation began by tackling counter-terrorism, dealing with Central Asia’s “Three Evils,” gradually forming the drive for security and economic growth, and it is gradually expanding to culture and other fields. The progress is not minimal, growing from six members to 18 to date. In addition, India and Pakistan will now become full members, demonstrating the bright future of cooperation between the member states.
Asia has a certain centripetal force, and this kind of centripetal force is to be gradually expanded; but it is different than the “sign-up” during the Cold War, in that the SCO constructs a brand-new regional organization.
Countries that are geographically close face similar challenges, and the SCO will arrange the schedule for cooperation based on the urgency of the different needs of member states. It works both prolifically and selectively, and it seeks to benefit all member states without them having to pay for it.
International organizations during the Cold War had many external strategic adversaries, but the SCO does not, nor does it intend to go in that direction. Otherwise, India and Pakistan’s participation in the Cooperation and their signing of the memorandum of obligations cannot be explained. Once India has joined, the SCO should no longer be called the “Eastern NATO.” Conversely, if any external forces view the SCO as a threatening enemy, their views are hopelessly limited by the tensions of the Cold War. In fact, one of the reasons that the West, especially the United States, is suspicious of the SCO becoming an external pressure group is that they know the sanctions against China and Russia are way too harsh; therefore, they are concerned about China and Russia coming up with a geopolitical confrontation organization “as it should happen.”
But the United States and Europe may see a new vitality in the 21st century from such kind of geopolitical cooperation. The SCO advocates the “Shanghai Spirit” that is not rash. Rather, its benevolent attitude, developing as life does, should gradually cause doubts to cease. Perhaps geopolitical organizations in the world should have been like this all the time.
During the SCO’s 15 years of establishment, extremism in Central Asia experienced obvious decline and annihilation. Neighboring countries did not experience any discomfort because of the emergence of this organization, thus prompting more countries to join. The United States and other Western countries criticized it out of narrow-mindedness, but the SCO did not respond to the criticisms, which prevented the formation of any serious waves of conflicts.
For such an organization, the United States and other external forces should provide full respect. If the SCO makes a sound, such as saying a few true words about the South China Sea, that will represent the irrefutable attitude of the non-Western world. If Washington decides to listen with a hostile attitude, it will only find itself in an unpleasant position.
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