Structural shifts within and around the SCO are changing the Organization’s prospects for the next decade, shifting the emphasis to the search for a new mission and an algorithm for the work of the expanded “Shanghai group”.

Today it is very important to preserve this tradition in the new conditions. After all, for many years, the success of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was based on the factor of constructive dialogue and the ability to bring polar interests to a common denominator. This is largely the special attractiveness of the SCO.

Effective regional dialogue

The organization has always been positioned as a symbol of an effective regional dialogue. Although many people criticize the SCO for allegedly leaving other areas of cooperation less developed besides the security sphere, I would like to note an important aspect here, in my opinion.

Yes, it is possible that the economic and humanitarian dimensions of the Organization still have a great reserve for development. But it is precisely the collective efforts of the SCO members and the level of trust achieved between them over the years that have made it possible to create a stable environment in the region.

As you know, the creation of this regional organization was the result of long-term efforts to strengthen mutual trust. Thus, the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, speaking at the summit in Astana in 2017, noted that ” at such moments, history is remembered. After the five states resolved the problems of borders with the People’s Republic of China, and their heads parted after signing the documents, we together with the then President of China, Mr. Jiang Zemin, proposed: let’s not disperse after signing the borders, but organize economic cooperation. This is how the SCO came into being.”

It is obvious that such a pragmatic approach of the founders of the Organization gave a broader effect in the future than expected. Let’s see: over the years, many different bilateral and multilateral trade and economic projects and initiatives have already been implemented in the SCO’s safe space in a variety of cooperation formats. Thus, the Eurasian Economic Union was created, the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt, initiated by China and announced on the Kazakh land, is successfully progressing. Thanks to trust and the desire for cooperation, the process of understanding the possibilities of a promising interface between the EAEU and the SREB is underway. Kazakhstan and China were the first to combine the national infrastructure development program “Nurly Zhol” and the regional initiative of the SREB.

Thus, the annual regular meetings of the leaders of the SCO member states and heads of state departments create a special atmosphere for the consistent development of cooperation beyond the competence and functions of the Organization. This is its strong point, which strengthens the “Shanghai spirit” of cooperation, which consists in community and equality.

The new composition of the SCO

Currently, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is entering a new period of its development – the accession of India and Pakistan will undoubtedly bring new ideas, opportunities and challenges. In all the participating countries, there is an understanding that the new composition of the SCO will open up qualitatively new horizons of international positioning for the Organization.

The new context of the SCO development will stimulate the search for new approaches to the organization of the SCO’s work. Now the SCO is facing several paths that, depending on the collective choice, will determine the development of the Organization for the next decade, its status on the world stage.

Taking into account the expansion of the membership, it is now important to pay special attention to both old and new SCO members to the need to formulate a new unifying mission and a set of tasks of the Organization.

In this regard, it is possible that during this new period the Organization will strengthen the economic and trade dimension.

Firstly, this is facilitated by a huge geographical area (the total territory of the SCO member countries is more than 34 million km2, that is, 60% of the territory of Eurasia).
Secondly, it is important to pay attention to the powerful potential of the SCO countries ‘ aggregate market (the total population of the SCO countries exceeds 3 billion people, and demographic forecasts indicate a future increase in these indicators).

Thirdly, China is the 2nd economy of the world and in many ways its engine, and the new member of the Organization, India, is the 7th economy of the world. Both major countries have been demonstrating high dynamics of economic growth for a long time.

These factors open up incredible prospects for the SCO to become an even more influential structure in Eurasia and beyond. They also directly indicate that the Organization has enormous opportunities (not all regional organizations in the world have this kind of potential), which should be used profitably.

Security through joint development

Currently, by international standards, the total volume of trade between the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is still small. But a reasonable development of economic cooperation mechanisms based on the interests of all the participating countries will make it possible to effectively realize the natural competitive advantages of the SCO members.

Building a common security environment, interconnected infrastructure and the development of common standards and rules of work in the SCO space can give the dynamics of trade and economic cooperation, as well as a new collective goal to the work of the SCO (a common slogan: “security through joint development”).

The new economic geography of the SCO will bring the markets of Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Southeast Asia closer. This will allow changing the context of the SCO’s development from geopolitical to geo-economic and at the same time will ensure attention to Central Asia as the center of intersection of various economic projects of the Silk Road. It is obvious that there is a huge field for the activities and initiatives of the business circles of the participating countries.

In my opinion, the transport dimension could also become a logical basis for the development of trade and economic ties. After all, as the famous Chinese proverb says, ” if you want to become rich, build a road.”

The common transport network can become a central element in the practical implementation of the strategy for connecting the Central Asian region, the Russian Federation and China, India and Pakistan – by connecting the EAEU, the SCO and the SREB with new roads.

Kazakhstan, as an important economic partner of China and one of the key participants in East-West transport projects, is very much interested in the further development of the interconnectedness of the SCO markets.

Perhaps, at the meeting of the leaders of the Organization’s member countries in China in June, it would be useful to discuss the formation of common approaches and mechanisms in transport policy, for example, in the issue of unification of tariffs in the SCO space.

The implementation of this project can create conditions for the accession of neighboring states to the SCO transport infrastructure and the further exit of the Central Asian countries from continental isolation. All these possibilities are real.

In addition, at a time when political and armed conflicts, trade and sanctions wars are escalating in Eurasia, the SCO is demonstrating an excellent example of equal partnership in a vast space. The developed model of cooperation, the “Shanghai spirit” are becoming more and more popular. And the Organization itself shows that dialogue and cooperation are possible, the main thing is political will and a real desire.

Of course, the sharp aggravation of international relations imposes new requirements on the SCO, and now the Organization is at a strategic crossroads. The historical process of SCO expansion opens up new opportunities for it and will give it a new dynamic. However, to take advantage of the chance, you need to answer a number of calls.

At the upcoming summit of the SCO heads of state in Qingdao, it is necessary to develop a long – term agenda in all areas-at the regional and international levels. Changes in the SCO should affect its new positioning as a more effective Organization.

In the coming years, it is important for the Shanghai Club not only to increase the number of members, but also to expand the areas of cooperation with real projects. Our observations indicate that the SCO has been ready for this for a long time.


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