Beyond the SCO Samarkand Declaration


Munir Ahmed

SCO member countries sought to develop cooperation in the fields of security and defence

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was warmly welcomed by all participating heads of state at the Samarkand SCO meeting. It shall be more than enough for the PTI extremists to understand that it’s the designation of a government/state that is obliged with a warm welcome, not a person. The PTI-Imran Khan balloon of over-estimation as a “world leader” has finally burst as Pakistan’s new Prime Minister began receiving the same protocol as past PMs of the country. He may not be a good orator, but certainly a much better deliverer than the PTI chief. He may be facing allegations of corruption for the last some years. The PTI chief is no exception, and is accused of several similar allegations and facing cases. He has accepted money laundering of PKR 1.5 billion. So, no angels around.
The recent two-day meeting of the Council of Heads of State of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) concluded on September 16 with the Samarkand Declaration – a huge agenda for the region and its member states. All eight Heads of member states and governments were hosted by the SCO Chair, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev along with the special guests Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Turkmenistan President Serdar Berdimukhamedov. The Heads of SCO Observer states Iran, Mongolia and Belarus also attended the Summit. Indeed, a great moment for the region in testing times.
The point of the high importance of the Samarkand declaration was to wipe off any notions that the SCO was intended against other organizations or states. The Declaration states: “Member states reaffirm that the SCO is not directed against other states and international organizations and is open to broad cooperation with them in accordance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, the SCO Charter, and international law, based on consideration of mutual interests and commonality of approaches to solving regional and global problems.”
On anti-terrorism and foreign interference, the SCO has stated that they are against any interference in other nations’ internal affairs under the pretence of anti-terrorism and anti-extremism measures the declaration noted. The document specifically read, “Member states note the inadmissibility of interference in the internal affairs of states under the pretext of countering terrorism and extremism, as well as the unacceptability of using terrorist, extremist and radical groups for personal gain.”
Additionally, the member states expressed deep concern over the threat to security posed by terrorism, separatism, and extremism in all its forms and manifestations, and strongly condemned terrorist acts around the world. They stressed the importance of the consistent implementation of the Program of Cooperation of the SCO Member States in Countering Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism for 2022-4, signed in 2021.
SCO member countries also sought to develop cooperation in the fields of security and defence based on “results of the Meeting of Ministers of Defense of the SCO Member States (Tashkent, August 24-25, 2022),” highlighting the significance of periodical joint military anti-terrorist drills. In addition, they also adopted four Joint Statements on Climate Change, Food Security, Energy Security and the Statement on Maintaining Reliable International Supply Chains.
SCO Leaders also approved new initiatives including the Comprehensive Action Plan for 2023-2027 on the implementation of the provisions of the Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation; Concept for Cooperation of the SCO Member States in Developing Connectivity and Creating Efficient Economic and Transport Corridors; Regulations on the Honorary Title of Goodwill Ambassador of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; Roadmap for Gradual Increase in the Share of National Currencies in Mutual Settlements of the SCO Member States.
Some four Intergovernmental Agreements were also signed including Cooperation on Development of Tourism, Cooperation in Sphere of Trade in Services, an MoU on Cooperation in Museum Matters, and Cooperation in Plant Quarantine. The SCO Heads of State and Government agreed to further expand SCO and approved the request of Belarus for full membership status as well as requests by Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, Maldives and Myanmar as new Dialogue Partners.
Finally, the SCO announced Iran’s full accession to the organization’s membership in the presence of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. It was announced last year [2021] in September and finalized in the Samarkand meeting. The member states considered it important to sustainably implement the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program and, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, call on all participants to strictly fulfil their obligations for the comprehensive and effective implementation of the document.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi had a meeting on the sidelines of the SCO summit to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations. After the meeting, President Putin underlined the importance of a significant new cooperation agreement that would raise relations to a new level l. He stated that a sizable delegation of Russian officials, including representatives from over 80 prominent Russian businesses, will travel to Iran next week. A substantial delegation of Russian officials visited Iran in May too. Seems a great beginning in the region is to be finalized soon with the high-tech sector on the top.
Another important development was the signing of a declaration on the strategic partnership by Russia and Uzbekistan to cement ties despite US pressures. The document addresses various aspects of Russian-Uzbek bilateral cooperation, such as military, energy, agriculture, finance, as well as security. Regarding economic collaboration, the countries agreed to increase bilateral oil trade, payments in national currencies, and mutual agricultural product exports. In terms of military cooperation, the two sides agreed to boost their ties by improving the existing framework of cooperation. They are also determined to strengthen their bilateral and multilateral cooperation in combating terrorism, drug smuggling, and other threats, as per the declaration.
President Vladimir Putin also met with China’s President Xi Jinping, and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. A triangular collaboration may be strengthening despite many burning rumours being created to topple the strategic understanding among the three countries. Pakistan’s Foreign Office has termed the Prime Minister’s statement as a “vision for the strategic direction of SCO in the face of global political and economic transformation.”
We shall appreciate Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s compelling case for collective action by SCO countries to combat the ravages of climate change. He shared details of the recent human tragedy and the massive devastation caused by the climate calamity that struck Pakistan in the form of unprecedented floods in the last five decades. The SCO member states have agreed to a joint Climate Action Framework. It shall be on the top agenda besides other non-traditional security threats including food security and pandemics.