India increases presence on Afghan issue by hosting SCO meeting, shows Asian consensus on security
Published: May 17, 2022 10:11 PM
 Shanghai Cooperation Organization Photo: VCG

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Photo: VCG

A four-day counter-terrorism meeting participated by Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) members under the framework of the SCO's Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) is being held in New Delhi, India, which Chinese experts viewed as a sign of efforts in Asia over regional stability and security, in sharp contrast to Europe mired in confrontation caused by NATO expansion.  

Delegations from India, China, Pakistan and other SCO members in Central Asia gathered Monday to boost cooperation in combating various regional security challenges, especially the security situation in Afghanistan. 

Indian media reported that India, which  assumed the chairmanship of the executive council of RATS of SCO on October 28, 2021 for a period of one year, has shown keen interest in deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO, which specifically deals with issues related to "security and defense."

Pakistan also sent a three-member team to India, the first ever official team to India since Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif took office last month, which Indian media interpreted shows the great importance Pakistan attaches to the event. 

China did not make any official release over the SCO meeting attendance as of press time, and was believed to be represented by embassy officials in India, Indian media reported.  

Citing anonymous sources, Indian media The Print said the discussion will be based on what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had enunciated in his address to an SCO Summit in September 2021, that "instability and fundamentalism persist in Afghanistan, and will encourage terrorist and extremist ideologies all over the world."

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the meeting highlighted SCO's role in holding back terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.

Founded in 2001, the SCO is the first regional organization initiated by China to tackle regional terrorist threats and promote political, economic and cultural cooperation.

The meeting shows that regional countries have a common interest and consensus to work together to prevent the security situation in Afghanistan from spilling over and prevent the further growth of violent terrorist forces, Qian added. 

Some analysts believe that the RATS of the SCO complements other existing mechanisms, including the Foreign Ministers' Meeting on the Afghan Issue Among the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan and the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' Dialogue mechanism, in boosting regional security. 

Afghanistan has gained SCO observer status, but there were no representatives of the Afghan Taliban at the meeting because the Taliban authority has not received wide diplomatic recognition. Experts said the Afghan Taliban may be able to participate in future conferences if they gain more international recognition, which would help the overall situation in Afghanistan.

Although India has long been uneasy with the Afghan Taliban and has previously been on the periphery of international and regional cooperation mechanisms on Afghanistan, by actively hosting the SCO conference, India will increase its presence and exert its influence on the situation in Afghanistan as a major regional country, Qian said. 

The expert also noted that the meeting in the midst of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was not much noticed, because of the situation in Europe reminded Asian countries that they should follow the concept of comprehensive security, solve the problem through dialogue and consultation, and then avoid any impulse of disagreement from escalating into military conflicts. The meeting thus exemplifies Asia's quest for security.