SCO can set example of conflict mitigation
Published: Sep 14, 2022 10:16 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

From the onset of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), there has been a view about this organization in the West that it is a geopolitical competitor to the Western world, some observers even gave a label to SCO - an "Eastern NATO." However, SCO leadership and representatives have regularly rejected such allegations and speculations. They always emphasize that SCO is not going to become a military alliance like NATO.

At the same time, this organization has an explicit or implicit geopolitical dimension of its modus vivendi. This can be noticed from the SCO Declarations. These Declarations often send a message that member-states stand for a multi-polar world order, opposite to hegemony, etc. The geopolitical aspect can also be assumed from the consideration of the membership structure: The organization includes no Western state as a member or even an observer. The SCO is going to accept a new member - Iran, a state also under US sanctions.

By and large, one can assume that some SCO members have tense relations with the US and the West, whilst some other members develop relatively friendly relations with the US. For example, Uzbekistan has maintained strategic partnership with the US since 2002 when a corresponding agreement was signed between two states. Smaller states such as Central Asian ones and mid-ranking ones such as India and Pakistan, obviously have ambiguous role within the organization. 

With this observation, we can suppose that SCO has a complicated structure. At the same, it should be argued that it eventually is gaining more popularity as it broadens its membership structure. Anyhow, the SCO plays an important role as an effective diplomatic platform for its members that creates cooperative and friendly political atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine crisis has created more ambiguities and perplexity in the entire international system. The international security architecture is shaken due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The exacerbation of the situation caused official and unofficial speculation on the growing danger of even nuclear clashes between Russia and US, situation reminding the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Regardless of the degree of probability of such a grim scenario, the nuclear war gaining growing traction in global discourse nowadays.

The SCO's nuclear dimension could be somehow, addressed by member-states. The Organization might work out and display its special nuclear posture and express its full support of the TPNW. Moreover, such a posture would be especially actual, timely and wise for the Central Asian states, which yet in 1997 proclaimed a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in Central Asia. 

In the context of the Ukraine crisis which has global impact, mitigation of other conflicts, tensions and crises across the world could be a somewhat compensation of the currently growing degree of threats to international security. In this respect, the SCO can make its important and tangible contribution to this task by, for example, strengthening peace and security in its own "zone of responsibility." 

For example, two members of the SCO - India and Pakistan - are in cleavage and conflict over Kashmir. If SCO strategically manages to really contribute to mitigation of this territorial dispute, it would be a strong example for other countries and regions of dealing with conflict-prone issues. It would be indirect contribution (as a message) to resolution of the Ukraine crisis, as well. 

Moreover, SCO is better positioned for realization of multiple projects on activation of cooperation in political, economic, trade, cultural-humanitarian and other spheres. From its inception, the SCO has served as a forum for mobilization of member-states for multi-faceted cooperation. We can argue that it helped to nurture and prepare environment for what is today called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In other words, Shanghai Spirit is on the background of BRI; and success of the latter will be linked to a great extent to the success and efficiency of the former.

The author is director of the Non-Governmental Research Institution "Knowledge Caravan," Tashkent, Uzbekistan. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn