Meeting regional challenges

Updated: 2013-09-11 08:13

By Sun Zhuangzhi (China Daily)

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Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit will seek pragmatic approaches to security and economic issues

The 13th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will be held on Friday in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, in the presence of senior officials from member and observer states. The Bishkek summit will once again show the SCO's pragmatic attitude toward regional security challenges, the Afghanistan rebuilding process and the economic security of member states.

Kyrgyzstan, as the host country, has lived through two violent regime changes, one in 2005 and one in 2010. With a population of about 5.5 million, it is the only country in the world to host both US and Russian military bases, and it faces ethnic violence, drug-related crimes and economic troubles. The country is the epitome of the region-wide economic stagnation and security challenges.

Whether the SCO can come up with new approaches and concrete action to facilitate multilateral cooperation in security and boost the economy is of most concern to Kyrgyzstan and other countries in the region. Given the volatile security situation, the SCO advocates a new security concept featuring regional cooperation that focuses on combating the "three evil forces" - terrorism, separatism and extremism - and other unconventional security threats. Its strict adherence to the principle of non-alignment and non-confrontation has countered the decade-old claim that the bloc is sliding toward a political-military alliance, or the so-called NATO of the East.

Although the SCO member states remain cautious about expansion considering some mechanism shortcomings, it finalized the rules for the admission of new member states in 2010, which has cleared the way for more countries to join the emerging bloc. The reason why membership expansion has not been on the SCO's agenda is also because the relevant countries that have expressed interest in becoming members have not yet met the minimum eligibility for full membership. For instance, as an SCO observer since 2005, Iran has been denied member status, since the SCO will not admit as a member any state under UN sanctions.

However, observer states are given adequate opportunities to participate in multilateral cooperation within the SCO framework, and the SCO will continue to make legal and technical preparations for the admission of new members in the future.

The forthcoming summit will demonstrate the bloc's determination and efforts to assist the Afghan people in rebuilding peace and stability in the war-torn country. The political upheaval, the religious extremism, drug trafficking and other problems afflict not only Afghanistan but also pose the biggest security threats to Central Asia.

Over the past 12 years, the SCO has paid continuous attention to the situation in Afghanistan, more than any international body.

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