02:11 GMT06 December 2020
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    Friday marked the conclusion of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Ufa, Russia. Commenting on the growing role of the organization in regional security affairs, Expert.ru columnist Gevorg Mirzayan explained that the SCO's importance and relevance are increasing with each passing year, along with the tasks entrusted to it.

    Recalling that the SCO was originally "established as a Russian-Chinese institute for solving border issues," Mirzayan underscored that "over the last several years, the organization has turned into a serious player in the Asian security space. The Ufa summit saw, for the first time, the organization's expansion, with the signing of the document on India and Pakistan's early admission becoming one of the highlights of the summit."

    Speaking at the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the admission of India and Pakistan "open[ed] a new level in the SCO's development," adding that given the history of tensions between the two countries, "we sincerely hope that the SCO platform will become another forum where we will be able to look for compromises for disputed issues together."

    "And Putin's hopes were immediately realized," Mirzayan noted. "On the sidelines of the summit, the prime ministers of the two conflicting countries held closed-door talks, which resulted in an agreement by the Indian leader to visit Pakistan for the summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation." The analyst emphasized that "of course, joint participation in the SCO will not resolve all the problems in Indo-Pakistani relations. However, the very fact of this participation has turned the SCO into a platform where the leaders of India and Pakistan will be able to regularly shake hands, and to discuss problems in bilateral relations."

    Mirzayan explained that India's inclusion into the organization was not an easy task to achieve, noting that given Beijing and Delhi's complex relationship, "Xi Jinping was in no hurry to let Narendra Modi 'into his garden' of Central Asia." Rejecting the suggestion made by some analysts that India's inclusion into the organization marks its declining importance, Mirzayan noted that "the relevance of the SCO is [actually] increasing with each passing year, and the number of tasks before it is continually growing." 

    Fyodor Lukyanov, chief editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, commented that "the SCO is a regional organization, and its region –Eurasia, is now in the limelight. This is the region home to the so-called Islamic State, and to the conflicts in the South and East China Seas. In the context of efforts to consolidate Eurasia and to turn it from an object of world politics into an actor…the SCO is transforming from a somewhat sluggish organization with an unclear mandate into a promising focal point and coordinator."

    Mirzayan noted that issues such as Islamic radicalism, the fate of Afghanistan, and the potential destabilization of the post-Soviet states of Central Asia are a common threat to all SCO members, with "China [being] no exception. Islamic radicalism in the countries of Central Asia could spill into the Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region, while the destabilization of Central Asia poses a threat to China's New Silk Road project. India is capable of making a major contribution to the fight against both of these threats. After all, Islamic extremism is as much a threat to Delhi as it is for Beijing, if not more so."

    Mirzayan cited Prime Minister Modi's address to the SCO summit, where Modi noted that "our membership in the SCO is a natural extension of [our] relationships [with member nations] and mirror the region's place in India's future. We will work with the SCO to combat terrorism and extremism, [which] is a rising threat to the entire region. A stable and peaceful Afghanistan is a future that the Afghan people richly deserve, but which will also advance peace, stability and prosperity in the region."

    Prospects for Future Expansion?

    With India and Pakistan's addition bringing the total number of members in the SCO to eight (including China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) Mirzayan noted that "in the near future, the new members may be joined by others as well." One particularly important prospective member, in the analyst's view, is Iran. "Like China and Russia, Tehran is interested in stability in Afghanistan, as well as the elimination of the various representatives of Sunni extremism and terrorism."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    political analysis, expert opinion, analysis, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Gevorg Mirzayan, Eurasia, Russia, Asia, Ufa
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