Carry on the Silk Road Spirit

Updated: 2013-09-18 07:49

By Chen Yurong (China Daily)

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SCO members will step up joint efforts to facilitate common development, regional security and people-to-people exchanges

The leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization adopted the Bishkek Declaration at their summit in Kyrgyzstan on Friday. The declaration affirms the commitment of the SCO member states to deepen their political, security, economic and cultural cooperation, and to uphold the principles of good-neighborliness and mutual benefit.

An important achievement of the summit was the framework to implement the Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation that the leaders approved. The treaty, inked by the SCO members in 2007, is of great significance, for it not only governs relations among SCO member states, it also creates a solid legal basis for the bloc's future development. The introduction of a framework to implement the treaty was essential for the SCO members to cement political mutual trust and conduct in-depth pragmatic cooperation.

The top priorities of the SCO are to unite to effectively deal with various regional threats and challenges and ensure sustainable development of the regional economy. Confronted with the complicated international situation and increasingly severe regional security challenges, the SCO faces an arduous task to safeguard regional security. The leaders of the SCO members agreed to actively take targeted measures to fight the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as drug trafficking and transnational organized crimes, and jointly safeguard regional and global security.

In addition, the SCO members adopted common positions on Afghanistan and Syria. The heads of state called on the international community to create conditions for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan at an early date and support the United Nations to play a leading role in the country's reconstruction.

Carry on the Silk Road Spirit

On Syria, the member states expressed their grave concern and advocated that the region should achieve peace, stability, prosperity and progress without external interference, especially military intervention unauthorized by the UN Security Council. The SCO voiced support for putting Syria's chemical weapons under the supervision of the international community and destroying them step by step and called upon the relevant parties to adopt a responsible attitude and to refrain from any actions that might escalate the crisis.

The organization will also promote pragmatic cooperation and seek common development of the regional economy. The SCO member states are in a critical period of economic development and are committed to achieving economic modernization. With global economic growth sluggish and the fallout from the international financial crisis still being felt, it is of great importance for the member states to accelerate their economic cooperation and increase their interconnectedness by accelerating the construction of transportation, energy and telecommunications networks.

The SCO heads of state agreed to explore a trade and investment facilitation agreement to promote economic and financial cooperation, and to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation in infrastructure construction and the development of transport and information networks.

The SCO heads of state unanimously agreed to Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposal to vigorously expand pragmatic cooperation within the SCO framework. Xi called on all members to carry forward the Silk Road Spirit and sign an agreement to build transport corridors connecting the Baltic Sea and the Pacific Ocean, and linking Central Asia with the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. He suggested strengthening financial, energy and food security cooperation by establishing an SCO development bank and an energy club and putting in place a cooperation mechanism for food security.

Increasing people-to-people communication can help build strong public support for the SCO's future development, and the leaders also unanimously agreed to promote cooperation to enhance their good-neighborliness and friendliness and promote dialogue among different civilizations. Xi announced China would provide 30,000 government scholarships to SCO member states and to invite 10,000 teachers and students from these countries' Confucius Institutes to visit China on study tours over the next 10 years.

The SCO is characterized by the Shanghai Spirit, whose essence is mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and seeking common development, and Xi called on the SCO members to carry forward the Shanghai Spirit and be a constructive participant in world affairs.

The author is director of the Department for European-Central Asian Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

(China Daily USA 09/18/2013 page11)