On 9-10 September 2020, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Minister’s (CFM) annual meeting was held in Russian capital Moscow to discuss various strategic and other important issues. Foreign Ministers of member’s states participated in the meeting. Russian President Putin addressed the participants in the inaugural session of the meeting. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi represented Pakistan in the meeting. He also met with Russian, Chinese and Tajik and other counterparts on the sideline of meeting. The most important part of the meeting was much anticipated meeting between Indian and Chinese Foreign Ministers amid ongoing standoff between two countries.
Addressing the SCO’s CFM, FM Qureshi reaffirmed Pakistan’s belief in centrality of Shanghai Spirit. He said in today’s environment, full of zero-sum prophecies; it is cooperation not confrontation that should drive international politics. Multilateral platforms like SCO thus exist as beacon of hope. Chinese FM Wang Yi in his remarks said that members of SCO must continue implementing joint mechanisms of fighting coronavirus and China is ready to expand cooperation in this sphere.
India and China’s FMs held bilateral talks in Moscow, amid ongoing tension in Ladakh border, and have reached a consensus for disengagement of troops. However, the five-point roadmap reached by Jaishankar and Wang Yi has failed to mention ‘status quo ante’, which is restoration of the LAC to its previous state in April before the confrontation started with Chinese deployment of forces. During the meeting, India highlighted its strong concern at massing of Chinese troops with equipment along LAC.
Likewise, SCO is purely a strategic platform led by Russia and China. However, this time around, the meeting focused on the overall prevailing situation in the post pandemic world. The Russian offer to share their vaccine may be helpful for other members as they are fighting with the pandemic. Pakistan may seek Russian support also in the post Covid -19situation.
After the speech of FM Qureshi, Indian Media tried to project that Pakistan gives up its Kashmir rant as FM didn’t mention Kashmir issue in his speech. Being a leading member of SCO, Russia is extending its help in making Covid-19 vaccine to other counties. This spirit must be appreciated and followed with full zeal and zest. It is incumbent upon the other member states how they follow Russian model in developing Covid-19 vaccine.
Through this platform, strategic rapprochement between the members states may also be enhanced as I said earlier SCO is purely a strategic forum. By using this forum, Pakistan can expand its outreach to the member states. It can also initiate strategic level dialogue with Russia to get more sophisticated defense equipment in lieu of the military modernization by Indian Army. The leadership in Islamabad by using its good offices must convey its legitimate concerns over the military modernization to Russian authorities. The new arms race and military build by Indian Army is likely to disrupt the concept of disarmament in the region. This Indian move may jeopardize entire regional stability. It is up to the Russian authorities how they maintain the concept of equality when it comes to providing defence equipment to India and Pakistan.
In lieu of the meeting, Pakistan needs to further expand its political, economic and strategic outreach to member states by using this platform. This forum is an ample opportunity for Pakistan to export its military and economic equipments to Central Asian Republic (CARs). It is also suggested that Pakistan may form trilateral forum at this platform which may include Russia and China for the further expansion of their strategic ties. The trilateral block is need of the hour as United States is also extending its feet in region by engaging India. The strategic utilization of SCO forum may benefit Pakistan to exports its military equipment to CARs.