When it comes to global security concerns, countries around the world have more or less accepted that they cannot address these alone. Without sharing intelligence and resources, governments are much more at risk of acting too slowly to handle any imminent threat. It was for this reason as well as to increase economic opportunities that China and Russia led the formation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2001. Other members include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Pakistan and India have held observer status for several years which the organisation has now agreed to upgrade to a full membership. Joining formalities were nearly completed at the latest meeting of the SCO on June 23-24 and Pakistan is very close to attaining a full membership.
Joining the SCO is a positive step for Pakistan which in recent times has been increasingly isolated on the foreign policy front. The security situation within the country also resulted in its isolation over the past decade or so, causing several political and economic setbacks. With the European Union now in flux due to Brexit, it is time for us to look for trading partners closer to home. Access to Central Asian markets could set off some of the economic fallout. A platform where India, too, is a member and which has also invited Iran to the table, could be effectively utilised to discuss issues afflicting the region and open lines of communication. Though not expected to have any drastic effects, forming alliances with regional powers could diminish some of Pakistan’s dependency on Western powers and help stabilise the precarious position it is put in whenever these powers decide to pull out of the region to pursue other interests. Pakistan has increasingly been looking towards China and Russia to develop trading and military relationships and an SCO membership is a step in the right direction. It is high time we worked towards building meaningful regional relationships. Hopefully, the SCO will prove to be the first step on this long road.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2016.