The geostrategic location of Pakistan, its promise of becoming a trade and energy corridor in the region and its close and growing ties with China and Russia were cited as factors supporting the country’s full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at a conference on Wednesday.
The two-day summit titled ‘SCO’s role in regional stability — prospects of expansion’ is being hosted by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) in collaboration with Germany’s Hans Seidel Foundation (HSF). SCO Deputy Secretary General Mirzosharif Jalalov is among the delegates from member and observer-status countries participating in the conference.
IPRI President Ambassador (retd) Sohail Amin termed SCO an effective instrument for regional stability and said that Pakistan’s concerns were the same as SCO’s. HSF Director Christian Hegemer said the expanded SCO would represent half of the world’s population, making it one of the biggest regional bodies.
Akram Zaki, a former ambassador and the chief guest at the conference, expressed hope that Pakistan’s case for full SCO membership was almost finalised as both China and Russia supported its candidature. In his inaugural address, Zaki spoke about the role of SCO in resolving conflicts in Afghanistan and Kashmir. He said without peace and stability, Pakistan could not become a trade and energy corridor for the region.
In the second session of the conference, Arifullah Pashtun, the chairman of the foreign relations committee of the Afghan Senate, discussed SCO’s possible role in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces in 2014.
Dr Zafar Nawaz of Quaid-e-Azam University emphasised the need for collaboration in defence among SCO members, as without it, the organisation would not be able to play an effective role in regional stability.
Dr Wang Shida said the SCO would have to take on greater responsibilities in Afghanistan after the departure of Nato and Isaf forces.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2013.