In the last year, Pakistan has seen significant shifts in the way it engages with the world beyond its borders. The Chinese and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor were undoubtedly catalytic, but the swing away from the Arab connection and the recalibration of our relationship with some states on the Arabian Peninsula, all point to some fundamental rethinking about how we do business with the rest of the world — and this is much to be welcomed. In broad terms, Pakistan is today looking to the north and the east, and the news that it has gained full accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is clear evidence of that. The announcement was made by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the fifteenth meeting of the SCO in the Russian city of Ufa. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also met with President Putin for the first time, and both leaders were mutually positive regarding their countries’ future relationships.
The world is awash with grandly-named international organisations that hold self-congratulatory conferences every year. Once the conference season is over, little is heard of them until the conference season rolls around again. The SCO, however, really does appear to be an organisation the membership of which has benefits for Pakistan — and India, whose accession to the SCO was announced at the same time.
It is to be hoped that finding themselves at the same table in the SCO produces more in terms of bilateral easement for India and Pakistan than has the membership of Saarc, an organisation that performs below its potential, in part, because of the shared animosities of the two countries. The internal dynamics of the SCO are driven by China and Russia. China has already and very recently made it clear to India that the CPEC is none of India’s business, and Russia is likely to view the CPEC development as to its own advantage as well, it being another network that will be ‘plug and play’ for the export of energy resources, among other things. The countries of the SCO bloc are where Pakistan has economic opportunity, something that no country on the Arabian Peninsula is able to offer.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2015.
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