The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation can and will play a bigger role in Afghanistan, said Zhang Deguang, Chairman of China Foundation of International Studies (CFIS) and former SCO Secretary General.
He was speaking at a roundtable discussion at the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) here on Tuesday. Zhang, who is heading a high-level delegation from China, added that Afghanistan has been on the agenda of all of the SCO’s recent foreign ministerial and heads of state meetings.
He maintained that the SCO’s position on Afghanistan was very similar to that of China, which is to have a stable, independent, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan.
He added that Afghanistan was also taking keen interest in the SCO and had participated in various conferences and meetings.
He shared that while the SCO was keen on giving full membership to Pakistan, it still needed to work out certain administrative arrangements.
He urged Pakistan to deepen its cooperation with the SCO before acquiring full membership.
He said China is cooperating closely with Russia and the Central Asian Republics (CARs) on Afghanistan and wanted to continue to work together with Pakistan on finding a solution to Afghan problems.
CFIS Senior Research Fellow Zhou Gang, who is also a former Ambassador to India and Pakistan, was of the view that NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan might not be a smooth transition.
He added that the US would keep some military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, but that it was not clear how the US would consolidate the government of Afghanistan post-2014 and keep its relations with its immediate neighbours stable.
He suggested a gradual withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan with a view to decrease the destabilising spill-over effects of the insurgency or drug production in Afghanistan for its neighbours.
Dr Li Jianmin, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said Russia did not want to get involved in any counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan because of its Soviet-era history. He added that Russia’s major concern regarding Afghanistan was drug-trafficking via the CARs.
IRS President Ashraf Azim suggested that the SCO’s security role in Afghanistan post-2014 should be institutionalised through a United Nation Security Council (UNSC) resolution.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2012.
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