Belarus: A new page in the journey of SCO

The Astana summit underlines the SCO's commitment to mutual trust and development amid global challenges.

With Belarus as the latest member, at the Astana summit, the SCO's growth and its role in fostering global development take centre stage.

Photo credit: SCO

As the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit is to open in Kazakhstan’s capital city Astana, the focus will be on the organisation’s role in addressing numerous challenges, including political, economic and humanitarian ones, that impede global development.

The SCO has impressively transformed itself since 2001 and now has ten member states. Together with two observer states and 14 dialogue partners, the number totals 26. It has the enormous potential of over three billion people – more than 40% of the world’s population.

The main principles of the SCO – enhancing mutual trust and good-neighbourly relations – resonate with many countries unwilling to cater to the thinking that “whoever is not with us is against us”. The SCO, though standing at the same crossroads of global confrontation as all other institutions, has managed to transcend the temptation to dictate and offers a more effective formula – cooperation for growth.

Its key value is the “Shanghai Spirit”– mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity and pursuit of common development. This has kept the SCO’s door open for new players even beyond the Asian-Pacific region. Belarus, which began to cooperate with the SCO in 2010 and is currently an observer at the organisation, is expected to become a full member at the Astana summit.

According to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, “Today the SCO is viewed as the future, a very influential pole in a multipolar global order. That wasn’t the case then. But at that time, we made a decision to develop cooperation with the SCO. This is where our political, economic, and maybe military-political future lies.”

This statement reflects the expectations that due to its enormous potential, the SCO could become a counterweight to global hegemony and offer effective solutions to ramp up trade and economic development as well as ensure security in the space of its responsibility. On its part, Belarus has offered to develop the information technology ecosystem of the SCO, strengthen nuclear safety and peaceful nuclear use, and promote connectivity between Europe and Eurasia within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

An effective economy depends on a safe environment. Countering terrorism, separatism and extremism remains the key priority of the SCO. The SCO members don’t intend to implant “democracy” with sword and fire. Instead, they want to protect their own centuries-old political cultures and development paths that proved to be credible and deserve the right to be respected by other geopolitical players. The Shanghai Spirit plays a cementing role in integration processes and even the SCO’s critics admit that it brings stability in the Asian region.

The SCO’s influence and international status are on the rise. The growing number of applications to join the family, including those from the Arab countries and other developing countries, proves it. After Belarus joins the group, the SCO will cover an area from Europe and the Middle East to South Asia and East Asia. The key economic artery of this vast territory is the BRI which is driving cooperation in many other fields. Other ambitious projects are being mulled, such as developing the “Polar Silk Road” to connect Asia and Europe through the Arctic region, and joint Arctic explorations.

The flip side of the coin is that despite having like-minded member countries, the SCO exists in a hostile environment which threatens, directly or indirectly, the organisation’s further development. This means coercive measures, sanctions and trade wars, among others.

Other problems are terrorism and extremism as well as drugs and human trafficking. And maybe one challenging factor is the SCO’s enlargement itself. The SCO unites countries with different economic potential and political ambitions. So, the key task is to strike a happy medium in a variety of voices, opinions and proposals, and find effective instruments to run successfully.

This is a complicated task, but there is hope that Oriental wisdom, which guides the decision-making processes in the SCO, could help find solutions to benefit all members.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and not necessarily represent the views of East Post or its editors. Credit: CGTN.

Grigory Mityushnikov is the deputy director of Radio Belarus and a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN

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