Islamabad, July 7, 2015: In light of the upcoming summit of theShanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) held a roundtable discussion on “’SCO Expansion: Exploring Future Scenarios”, at Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS). The summit, which begins in the Russian city of Ufa from July 9, would begin the official process for Pakistan’s entry into the organization.
The discussion, widely attended by prominent policy makers, practitioners and experts from various institutions, was chaired by Lt. Gen (R) Asif Yasin Malik, HI(M), Former Defence Secretary. The keynote speakers for the roundtable were Ambassador (R) Masood Khan, Director General Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad and Mr Andrey Shabalin, Counsellor Political, Embassy of the Russian Federation.
The panelists highlighted the measures Pakistan can take to ease its membership process in the SCO and the requisite strategies to accomplish this. The perspective of important members like Russia and China in facilitating the process was also emphasized, particularly in light of the economic and geopolitical opportunities that Pakistan can offer as a member. The comprehensive and insightful presentations dilated upon the process and criteria of gaining membership as well as the opportunities and challenges that such a measure would entail.
The President CPGS, Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) in her welcome remarks, highlighted that Pakistan is looking forward to the forthcoming summit in Russia, which is likely to mark the commencement of the official process for Pakistan’s inclusion in the SCO as a full member. She stated that Pakistan has a lot to offer the SCO and its member states, as its location provides a safe gateway for trade to member states, as well as the shortest and strategically most viable route. In an inter-regional alignment, Pakistan could also play a significant role for two reasons. Firstly, its role in combating terrorism is vital for the region. Secondly, it provides the shortest possible trade routes to Central Asia, Iran and Gulf states on the one hand, and the Russian and Chinese markets on the other, she added.
Lt Gen (R) Asif Yasin Malik, HI (M), the chair of the roundtable, while setting ground for the debate stated that the world has undergone a major transformation, and this century is an ‘Asian’ century. He emphasized that the expansion of the SCO could play a positive role in facilitating the resolution of outstanding issues in South Asia.
Ambassador (R) Masood Khan highlighted that ‘the expansion of the SCO would provide a perfect opportunity for cooperation between the SCO, NATO and the EU’, particularly as the organization is focusing on promoting a unified agenda in international relations. He further clarified that once admitted as a member, Pakistan ‘would contribute significantly as a constructive partner in the work of the organization’. In this regard, he also emphasized the importance of the Foreign Office’s engagement with its counterparts to ensure the timely completion of all formalities for the membership process.
Mr Andrey Shabalin elaborated upon the procedural details of the admission process for new membership in the SCO. He highlighted certain vital criteria that determine the suitability of an applicant, including the fulfilment of UN charter obligations in good faith and compliance with generally recognized international rules and norms. He also informed the audience of another significant issue under consideration at the Ufa summit; the formal integration between China’s Silk Route Economic Belt and Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union. The membership of Pakistan and India into the SCO will be conducive for the implementation of this initiative.
Kyrgyzstan’s Charge D’affaires, Sagynbek Ibraev expressed his wholehearted support for Pakistan’s membership, underscoring that all Central Asian States (CARs) would welcome the inclusion of Pakistan in SCO. He stated that it would enhance the credibility and regional influence of the organization, facilitate the development of economic cooperation and the establishment of peace and security in the region.
In conclusion, Senator Sehar Kamran stated that “Pakistan looks forward to both China and Russia’s support in building Pakistan’s case for inclusion into the SCO at the upcoming Summit. We believe that both Pakistan and the SCO stand to benefit greatly from such mutual cooperation, and the opportunities that this platform will offer.”
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