Pakistan became a permanent member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on 9th June 2017 that opened an opportunity for her to reap maximum benefits by engaging in partnership with its members__ Central Asian Republics (CARs), Russia, China and India. These all countries hold the greatest economic, military and strategic significance for Pakistan. The organization is widely known for its defense cooperation and some largest joint military exercises. For this reason, it is also called “NATO of the East.”
Significance of SCO for Pakistan is mentioned as follows:
Security benefits for Pakistan:
The members of SCO have established Regional Anti-terrorist Structure (RATs) with headquarters in Tashkent. The RATs involve the sharing of intelligence information by the member countries to defeat extremism and terrorism from the region. It also gathers information regarding different terrorist groups operating in the neighborhood.
The advent of technology, on the one hand, has connected people beyond borderlines for economic cooperation. On the other hand, it has also resulted in the globalization of terrorism. Now, a terror group is not only comprised of native recruits, but also people from all over the world. For instances, Al-Qaeda, when it was very active in Afghanistan, consisted of fighters from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China and son on.
Hence, in order to defeat terrorism and extremism from a particular region, it is imperative for the countries to cooperate in sharing intelligence. Pakistan is facing the issue of cross border terrorist attacks, which are mostly carried out by the terrorist connected to CARs. It is therefore, the sharing of intelligence under RATs will help Islamabad to eliminate terrorism completely from its land.
Besides, SCO countries are known for conducting the largest military exercises in the world. The membership, therefore, will ensure the participation in these joint exercises. Pakistan will also get a chance to modernize its military equipment using these drifts.
Energy benefits for Pakistan:
Pakistan has been facing energy shortages since 2007 and its estimated requirement of power in 2030 will be 50,000 MW. The membership will open a window for her to get energy requirement fulfilled without installing expensive infrastructure because CARs are rich in energy resources. Moreover, SCO has formed “Energy Club” as a platform to make energy deals with the member countries in a transparent and effective way.
After the fall of Soviet, the US officials estimated that in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan lay between 50 billion and 100 billion barrels of oil, plus nearly 250 trillion cubic feet of gas. It was the reason that in 1995, some oil giant like Argentinian based Bridas Corporation and the U.S. based Unocal showed interest in signing Turkmenistan-Pakistan-Afghanistan-India Pipeline popularly known as TAPI.
Pakistan signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bridas Corporation instead of American based oil giant in 1995 under the government of Benazir Bhutto. Steve Coll, in his book, “Ghost Wars” has written an interesting detail about the MoU. In Islamabad, Tom Simons, the American Ambassador to Pakistan received indications that someone in Bhutto’s government had been paid off on the Argentinian pipeline contract. He visited the Prime minister office and said directly that Bhutto should cancel her MoU with Bridas and sign with Unocal instead. “We could not do that because that’s breaking the contract,” she told him. “But that extortion!” Simon shot back forcefully. He did not elaborate, but it was clear that he was referring Zardari, suggesting that her husband would only permit a Unocal deal if he was paid. The word extortion sent Bhutto in furry and she told Simon to leave. Afterward, Simon sent a written apology to Bhutto when she complained his higher authorities sitting in White House for misbehaving with sitting Prime Minister.
However, the project could not be succeeded owing to instability in Afghanistan. Once this project is completed, Pakistan will not only receive adequate energy supply direct from Turkmenistan, but also get transit fees for allowing the pipeline to pass through its territory to India. The membership in SCO will help Pakistan to bring peace in Afghanistan and give a practical shape to TAPI.
Economic development of Pakistan:
The blessed geo-strategic location of Pakistan will help it to gain maximum economic benefits from the membership of SCO. Pakistan provides the shortest transit route to CARs, China and Russia to reach Arabian Sea (Warm Water) for trade activities. As a result, CARs will move their energy resources to the Sea by exploiting Pakistan’s territory. Consequently, Islamabad will get millions of dollars as transit fees. Same is the case with China, which is the largest trading nation of the world with an estimated trade of around $4 trillion. At present, around 80 per cent of Chinese trade pass from its traditional route through South China Sea that is not only time consuming by also risky as surrounded by American allies. Pakistan provides China with the shortest transit route to reach Arabian Sea. The diversion of this huge trade will take the economic position of Pakistan to the certain new height of glory.
A platform to solve Pak-India issues:
India and Pakistan are facing numerous daunting challenges including Kashmir. All the bilateral attempts to solve their crisis have hit to the brick wall. Without the meditation of some great powers, the issues, between two countries, could not be addressed. The US has not shown any interest to mediate in India and Pakistan to turn them from foe to friends.
Since, India is also a member of SCO, the organization will act as a platform to solve the differences of the two countries with the mediation of China and Russia. China wants peace in the region and economic cooperation among the regional countries. It will surely, in future, mediate and engage them in trade activities. It is also in the best interest of Beijing. Thus, the membership provides Pakistan and India a much needed platform to solve their daunting challenges, before they turn into a wider conflagration.
Image building for Pakistan:
The membership of SCO will act as an image builder for Pakistan. In International Relations, being a part of the largest and important organization is considered as a source of prestige for the countries. The SCO was formed in 2001, but Pakistan has gained membership in 2017. It means, the old members thought Pakistan as a responsible country to be included as member. It is, in short, a license of responsibility for any country to become a part of prestigious organization.
Controlling drug trafficking:
The issue of drug trafficking was serious among the founding members of the SCO. However, by acting collectively, they framed policies and eradicated the evil of drugs from their territory. Pakistan has been facing the same issue of drugs that are entering from Afghanistan. By exploiting the experience of SCO, it can also eliminate the evil from its pure land.
The members of SCO, particularly China and Russia, are interested in bringing regional peace. Pakistan has been facing the cross border terrorist attacks from Afghanistan. By acting together, SCO has potential to solve regional issues like Afghanistan and bring overall stability. Peace in Afghanistan is not possible without the support of regional countries like Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia. Once the US leaves the territory, Pakistan will force Taliban to agree on the political solution with other regional groups with the help of China. As far as Iran is concerned, China has already improved its economic ties with Tehran by announcing the investment of around $400 billion in its oil and transport sector. Thus, the membership of Pakistan will create an opportunity for the regional countries to work together to achieve peace in neighborhood.
As such, the membership of SCO will provide Pakistan security and economic benefits. Besides, it will create an effective platform for Islamabad to solve its differences with India. Moreover, it will improve Pakistan’s image in the globe, help it to address drug trafficking and bring regional peace. Since the membership is very beneficial, Islamabad should take expeditious measures to gain advantages without wasting time.