By Dr. Daniyar Kurbanov, Acting Director of the Center for International Relations Studies under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The 22nd summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will be held on September 15-16 this year in Samarkand, and will be the largest diplomatic event of the year in Uzbekistan and the Central Asian region. The heads of states and governments of all eight SCO members, three observer states, leaders of invited countries and 10 international organizations are expected to take part in the summit.
The expectations associated with the summit are primarily conditioned by the growing authority, political weight, economic potential and international attractiveness of the Organization.
Today the SCO is not just the largest regional organization occupying 60% of the territory of Eurasia with approximately half of the world’s population.
First of all, in more than 20 years of its existence, it has become an important element of the modern international system and the security maintenance in the Eurasian space. The huge potential of economic cooperation between the countries of the Organization is related to the fact that its total GDP already accounts for about 25% of the global GDP and may increase up to 35-40% by 2030.
The development of mutual trade and investments by member states can also contribute to the realization of their unique opportunities to expand the transport interconnectedness of Eurasia, and create new transport corridors in the direction of South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The speed up of these processes will be stimulated by digital transformation, the active introduction of the latest technologies and the overall expansion of scientific, technological, educational and cultural-humanitarian contacts.
Uzbekistan during its presidency, in cooperation with other member states, has done much to draw attention to the activities of the SCO both in member states and globally.
Tashkent’s dynamic agenda (more than 80 events), innovative and result-oriented style of activities have significantly improved the image of the Organization as a living structure actively seeking ways to adapt to new international realities and improve its activities and enhance the effectiveness of multilateral cooperation.
Such issues as the development of industrial and technological cooperation, digital economy, intraregional trade and transport interconnectedness, security and protection against cyber threats were the focus of Uzbekistan’s presidency.
Uzbekistan’s presidency has also made it possible to demonstrate both our country’s actively implemented program of large-scale reforms and innovative foreign policy, especially the effectiveness of efforts to promote regional cooperation in Central Asia and expand the region’s interaction with leading countries and associations.
These issues will, we think, also be in the focus of the summit of the Shanghai Organization, since our region is not just the geographical core of the SCO, linking the Eurasian part of the Shanghai Group with the South Asian part. Not less important, that a more cohesive and cooperative Central Asia is becoming an important factor in strengthening interaction among member states, opening up new opportunities to promote mutually beneficial cooperation.
Solid results of Uzbekistan’s presidency and the large package of agreements to be signed are evidence of the enormous potential of interaction within the SCO. More than 30 documents are expected to be adopted aimed at expanding the Organization’s multifaceted cooperation.
The coordinated approaches of member states on key issues of multilateral cooperation and critical issues of contemporary international relations will be reflected in the final political document of the summit – the Samarkand Declaration.
The adoption of the Comprehensive Plan of Implementation of the Treaty on Long-term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, one of the key documents of the SCO, the accession to which is required for membership of the Organization, will be particularly noteworthy among other major decisions.
The Concept of Cooperation for the Development of connectivity and the Creation of Efficient Transport Corridors, to be adopted at the summit on the initiative of Uzbekistan, is an innovative document aimed at effective use of the huge transport and logistics potential of Eurasia. Its practical implementation will make it possible to form in the SCO region a diversified network of transport corridors, including such routes as Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China and Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railroads and North-South ITC.
The program of stimulating industrial cooperation, also put forward by Tashkent, is designed to push up the industrial development of member states, increase mutual industrial investments and the formation of interregional supply chains in the SCO area.
A number of decisions of the summit will open a new page in the process of expansion of the Shanghai Organization. The most important document is the Memorandum on Iran’s Accession Commitments, which will allow Tehran to become a full member of the organization at the next summit in India.
Besides, a number of Arab countries will receive the status of dialogue partners – relevant memorandums will be signed with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt, which will become the first African country – “member of the SCO family. Bahrain’s application for this status is also expected to be approved.
Thus, Iran’s accession to member states and the granting of the status of dialogue partners to Arab countries signal the growing interest of Middle Eastern countries in the Shanghai Group. As the Saudi ‘Arab News’ notes, “the SCO has gained enormous traction across Asia. No surprise that a number of countries from the Middle East are lining up to join as dialogue partners, observers and members.”.
This could further intensify political dialogue and practical cooperation between Uzbekistan and Central Asian states with the Arab-Muslim world and such groups as the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf or the Arab League.
An important feature of the Samarkand meeting of SCO leaders will also be the high level of diplomatic activity, on the margins of the summit. The leaders of member states and other participants and guests of the summit will hold a number of meetings in bilateral and even trilateral formats to discuss the most important issues of mutual relations. One can say that during these days, Samarkand will become the “diplomatic capital of Eurasia” for a while.
It will be a good opportunity for Uzbekistan to hold intensive diplomatic contacts with partners and official visits of a number of leaders to our country. This will allow to achieve significant progress in political dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation with SCO partners, including agreements on the implementation of a number of concrete projects.
In general, we can conclude that the hard work of Uzbek diplomacy during the presidency in SCO, with active participation and support of all member states, has provided a significant boost to interaction in priority areas of multifaceted cooperation. Diplomats of partner nations declare that the upcoming summit will open a new page in the process of development of Shanghai Organization, and allow to achieve tangible results in consolidating its international authority and its role in addressing the issues of security and development in the vast Eurasian space.