SCO membership – a potential trump card for Pakistan

Published: September 28, 2015
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The permanent SCO membership for Pakistan will ensure greater access to resources and energy import projects within the grouping’s framework. PHOTO: FILE

The permanent SCO membership for Pakistan will ensure greater access to resources and energy import projects within the grouping’s framework. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The process of granting Pakistan full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) got under way in Ufa during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit in July this year and the country is expected to win the status in January 2016.

This will provide Pakistan an opportunity to play its cards strongly with conventional development partners like the United States and multilateral donors including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank. There is a common perception that the US uses these multilateral forums for political gains globally.

The SCO summit in Ufa, Russia once again outlined its status as an important and effective multilateral forum that discusses actual problems of international policy, economy, regional stability and security. These four elements have been very important in stimulating investment.

Read: Pakistan set to join SCO security bloc

The influence of this forum is consistently growing. After Iran enters it and the number of observer countries and dialogue partners increases, the SCO will definitely transform itself from being a regional “hub club” to a powerful cooperation forum that deals with economy and security issues on a wide geographical area from eastern Europe to Southeast Asia.

The permanent SCO membership for Pakistan will ensure greater access to resources and energy import projects within the grouping’s framework. It would not have to wait for long, just the start of the membership process will give Pakistan a trump card in dialogue with traditional donors, particularly the US, who always tries to use its economic support as a pressure tactic.

Look at the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project. In this case, Pakistan has faced mounting pressure to shelve the scheme and move towards liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from Qatar. Even the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has engaged a consultant to assist Pakistan in inking a commercial deal for LNG supply with Qatar.

Economic cooperation

Pakistan’s membership of the SCO will significantly strengthen the country’s position in the region and the world over and will have a positive impact on several major issues pertaining to military and technical cooperation between Russia and Pakistan and on huge communication projects with China.

With plans under way to connect the Silk Road Economic Belt with the Eurasian Economic Union, the role of Pakistan in regional economy and infrastructure projects will definitely increase because the Kashgar-Gwadar project between Islamabad and Beijing is part of the Silk Road belt.

Federal Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, in a recent meeting of SCO commerce ministers in China, offered them to use Pakistan’s ports once the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was completed to get access to trade routes through the Arabian Sea.

He said Pakistan’s trade strategy focused on developing linkages with neighbours, leveraging the country’s geographical location and capitalising on regional connectivity initiatives. Cross-border land trade is especially important for landlocked countries and Pakistan and SCO members will benefit substantially from greater integration through energy, commerce and transit trade.

Read: Opposition ticks off PM Modi for Ufa rendezvous

He added CPEC was a landmark initiative under the umbrella of “One Belt One Road” and it envisaged connectivity and expansion of trade and investment through a network of roads, rail, fibre optic cables and energy pipelines. This was the vision that Pakistan and China were following to enhance trade by connecting the region, he said.

Word of caution

However, experts caution that things could get complicated if Pakistan tries to use the SCO forum to resolve its issues without paying attention to the interests of other member states. SCO definitely has the potential of mediating and resolving varying problems, but such attempts could prove counterproductive.

However, western countries, though critical about the SCO, have a growing understanding that the grouping has already consolidated its place as one of the key forums of international cooperation and it is almost impossible to ignore it. Pakistan could also use it effectively by looking at multiple options in order to deepen economic cooperation because economic development is the best remedy to the threat of terrorism.

The writer is a staff correspondent.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Xi
    Sep 28, 2015 - 1:15PM

    “Trump card” because Pak can borrow from SCO?
    Sorry, no can do. Recommend

  • Roshan
    Sep 28, 2015 - 3:48PM

    Well it is the best way of consolidating relations with the SCO bonded countries . Every member country has a role to play and with china russia india and pakistan , SCO can prove to be strong body which can act as a powerful weapon for the politics of Asia Recommend

  • Sonya
    Sep 28, 2015 - 6:02PM

    Things are changing and they are changing at a very fast speed, the power shifts are taking place, Pakistan’s inclusion into SCO will certainly do good for Pakistan, there is no douobt about that. The only thing that Pakistan will have to make independent decisions and may say good bye to US backed Arab corporations like countries’ who have been exploiting Pakistan for ages.Recommend

  • Vectra
    Sep 28, 2015 - 7:15PM

    US economic fundamentals are very strong.Its GDP is based more on strong domestic consumption than simply exports oriented while all SCO members except India has opposite i.e larges portion of GDP is based more on export than their own internal consumption.Even in that export oriented they have only one commodity as majority that is oil and gas as against US exports which is much more diverse.This is the reason why Russia (oil and gas) and China (all exports overall) in particular are faltering and thinking of pressuring US whose economic fundamentals are so strong is naive and bad idea.Recommend

  • waqar shaikh
    Sep 28, 2015 - 7:30PM

    Pakistan could not benefit from membership of SCO in immediate future . SCO is not a Donor organization which can provide Pakistan with financial assistance.Pakistan’s economy is weak so it will be dependent on traditional donors such as IMF, ADB and world bank .Recommend

  • Tribute
    Sep 28, 2015 - 8:10PM

    Thank you Nawaz Sharif. Your vision is leading us towards prosperity. Recommend

  • Alien1
    Sep 29, 2015 - 5:23AM

    more fantasises from pakistanis, first learn how to trade with ur neighbours.Recommend

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