Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, August 17th, 2019

Afghanistan Needs Shanghai Cooperation Organization

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Afghanistan Needs Shanghai Cooperation Organization

In a few days, the Council of Heads of State of the Member States of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will convene in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, to plan for regional security, stability, development and prosperity.
This year marks the 18th anniversary of the founding of SCO and the Bishkek Summit will be the coming-of-age ceremony for the Organization. With sincere cooperation in the past eighteen years, the SCO has become the world’s largest and most populous organization for comprehensive regional cooperation. The economic aggregates and total population account for about 20% and 40% of the world’s total respectively. The Organization has four observer states, including Afghanistan, and six dialogue partners. It has established extensive collaborative relations with the United Nations and other international and regional organizations and its international influence has been continuously increasing.
The Shanghai Spirit is the foundation of SCO’s success. The Organization aims to achieve common development through dialogue and consultation on the basis of equality and mutual trust and according to the principle of mutual benefit and win-win. It has thus maintained a vigorous vitality. The SCO operates in ways consistent with those of the new model of international relations and the community of shared future for mankind China advocates, thus serving as an example of state-to-state relations.
The SCO is a stabilizing anchor for regional security. Its business started with security cooperation. In addressing national security concerns in the region, the SCO defined for the first time the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism and clarified the approaches and principles that member states follow in their cooperation against the “three forces”, thus paving the way for productive security cooperation. From the signing of the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism in June 2001 to the adoption of the SCO Vision Document on Preventing Abuses of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances at the Qingdao Summit in 2018, the Organization has gradually built up a solid legal foundation for enforcement and security cooperation. By establishing the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO RATS) at Tashkent, holding a series of joint anti-terrorist military exercises such as Peace Mission and Operation Tianshan and engaging in cooperation against drug smuggling, transnational crimes and illegal immigration and for border protection, the SCO member states have gradually improved their capacity to collaborate with one another and extended the scope of security cooperation.
The SCO is a booster of economic cooperation. Though varying markedly in the size of economy, industrial structure and stage of development, SCO members share the same desire to revitalize their economies and improve their people’s livelihood. In recent years, they have made positive progress in aligning their development strategies, conducting mutually-beneficial capacity cooperation and advancing and facilitating regional trade and investment. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has further injected a strong impetus to deepening economic and trade cooperation among SCO members. From 2013 to 2017, China imported from fellow SCO member countries goods worth more than 340 billion US dollars and direct investments by Chinese enterprises in those countries reached about 15 billion. China has become the first or second largest trading partner of most SCO members. With the gradual optimization of their commodity structures for trade, the level of mutual benefit and integration has continuously increased.
The SCO exemplifies a new model of international relations. The Organization respects the cultural diversities and social values of its members, argues for and acts in strict observance with the Charter of the United Nations and other recognized norms of international law, and is committed to building a more just and balanced international order. It supports developing an open world economy through concerted effort, opposing together unilateralism and trade protectionism in any form and safeguarding the authority and effectiveness of WTO rules.
The SCO has all along attached great importance to the Afghan question. The creation of SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group in 2005 marked the start of cooperation between the two sides. In April this year, the Contact Group held a meeting in Bishkek and parties had in-depth discussions on the situation in Afghanistan and the region at large, the Afghan reconciliation process, and the strengthening of cooperation. In May, the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers was held also in Bishkek. It decided to submit the draft Roadmap for Future Actions of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group to the heads of states for consideration and signature. Ties between the two sides are increasingly close.
The SCO has a unique advantage in addressing the Afghan question. As a pearl on the ancient Silk Road, Afghanistan, like SCO members, has been an important participant in the BRI. Most SCO members are close to Afghanistan in geography, culture and customs. There is a profound traditional friendship and a natural affinity. The Afghan people welcome the help of the SCO and its members in restoring peace and stability and promoting economic development in Afghanistan.
The SCO’s principles of consensus and non-interference in internal affairs and the Shanghai Spirit are recognized and highly appreciated by many in Afghanistan. The SCO fully respects the Afghan people’s independent choice of development path, supports the Afghan side in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, endorses the reconciliation process, and assists Afghanistan to build up its security capacity to combat terrorism and transnational organized crimes. H.E. President Ashraf Ghani mentioned on various occasions that the SCO had played an important role in regional stability and development and that Afghanistan hoped to strengthen economic, trade, security and people-to-people cooperation with SCO members.
Afghanistan bears on regional stability and development. All SCO members hope to see a political resolution to the Afghan question. They welcome efforts made by the Afghan government and people to choose a development path suited their national conditions and engage in their own discussions on peace and reconciliation. They support Afghanistan to combat terrorism, extremism and drug-related crimes. All members adhere to the political principle of an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” process and actively participate in bilateral and multilateral cooperation involving Afghanistan, thus making their due contributions to restoration of peace at an early date.
As a traditional friendly neighbor, China firmly supports the Afghan government in maintaining national security and stability and promoting economic development by inter alia providing within its own capacity assistance for the peaceful reconstruction and reconciliation process. In June last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with President Ghani during the SCO Qingdao Summit. The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation within the SCO framework. The working levels have been busy implementing this important agreement.
After years of war and turmoil, Afghanistan finally finds peace potentially within its reach. Despite uncertainties, the Afghan people have never ever been so close to peace as they are today. China and other SCO members call on all parties and factions in Afghanistan to put the interests of their country and people first and reach broad political consensus through an inclusive dialogue among Afghans, thus truly advancing the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned political process. It is hoped that the negotiations between the United States and the Taliban will lead to agreements conducive to the process and that other multilateral mechanisms on Afghanistan will also play a positive role in this process.

Liu Jinsong is the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Afghanistan

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