Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, welcomed the SCO member states attending the organization’s 17th meeting between June 8 and 9, when India and Pakistan joined the team. This was the first time that the SCO has adopted new members since its founding in 2001. The SCO’s membership expansion in South Asia makes it the largest regional cooperation organization on the planet, covering three fifths of the Eurasian landmass and approximately half of the global population.
The enlarging membership has injected new energy into the SCO’s steady progress in many sectors, including regional security cooperation and local economic development.
Since its establishment in 2001, the SCO has played an important role in intensifying regional security cooperation among related countries. Against the backdrop of anti-terrorism campaigns across the world, it is obvious that no country can combat terrorism alone. Long-term peace and order therefore depend on cooperation amongst different countries.
The addition of India and Pakistan to the SCO will further broaden its multilateral security mechanisms, particularly in the fight against the “three evil forces”—separatism, extremism, and terrorism, including terrorists in South Asia, thus perfecting the security cooperation network within the SCO.
The new members, India and Pakistan, are located at the pivot of West, Central, and East Asia, a strategic point for tackling security issues, both traditional and non-traditional. Their admission into the SCO will form a buffer zone of security around Afghanistan, the “heart of Asia,” thus contributing remarkably to the Afghan government’s efforts in anti-terrorism and drug control as well as its reconstruction and social stability.
The growth of the SCO is also sure to enhance regional economic development.
First, the richly-endowed oil and gas resources of Central Asian countries can feed the great demands of India and Pakistan, which are on the rise economically. This is especially true for India. Over the last few years, India has seen increasingly rapid economic progress, thus redoubling its demand for energy resources. For a long period of time, the Middle East has been the major source of its energy imports; but in the new era, Central Asia will dominate in this regard, with the increase of diversified energy imports. India will have much to do in terms of the energy trade with Central Asian countries, which can not only safeguard its sustainable, steady economic development but also accord with the economic interests of Central Asian countries.
Second, all members of the SCO are situated along the Belt and Road routes, with those from Central Asia acting as active supporters of the Belt and Road Initiative. After joining the SCO, Pakistan will certainly offer more favorable conditions for accelerating the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. And India, under the framework of the SCO, will undoubtedly provide more ideas for regional cooperation.
The author works as an assistant researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies under the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.