Tag Archives: Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

Former Uzbek foreign minister appointed new gen-sec of SCO

JAN. 1 (The Conway Bulletin) — Former Uzbek foreign minister Vladimir Norov replaced Tajikistan’s Rashid Alimov as general-secretary of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) for a three year term. The SCO is focused on Central Asia and is headed by Russia and China. It has become one of the most influential inter-governmental groups focused on the region.

>>This story was first published in issue 396 of The Conway Bulletin on Jan. 11 2019

Chinese PM Li urges SCO to intensify cooperation

DUSHANBE/ Oct. 15 (The Conway Bulletin) – At a meeting of heads of governments of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states, Chinese PM Li Keqiang said that the group needed to build on the economic progress it has made to turn itself into a trading powerhouse.

Mr Li specifically said that six areas needed more cooperation within the Central Asia-focused group. These were trade, industrial capacity, connectivity, openness, cooperation and common development.“Past experience shows that development cannot be achieved behind closed doors, and opening up is the right way forward,” he said at the meeting in the Tajik capital.

China is the driving force of the SCO, which it co-founded in 2001 with Russia. The other original members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Pakistan and India joined last year.

China has used the SCO to bolster its resource base in the region and to fund infrastructure projects. Critics of Chinese policy in Central Asia have accused it of grabbing assets through the mechanics of the SCO and its Belt and Road Initiative.

While in Dushanbe, Mr Li also met with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon. Media reported that both men said that they wanted to intensify bilateral relations. China is Tajikistan biggest foreign investor.


>>This story was first published in issue 388 of The Conway Bulletin on Oct. 17 2018

Tajikistan blocks Iran’s application to join the SCO

SEPT. 20  (The Bulletin) — Tajikistan is blocking Iranian membership of the Russia and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) because it accuses Tehran of supporting a banned Islamic party, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported. The SCO  is often viewed in the West as a military organisation, although its functions and institutions go further. It is focused on Central Asia, although this year India and Pakistan joined. SCO ascension needs approval from every member.


— This story was first published in issue 344 of The Conway Bulletin, now called the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on Sept. 24 2017.

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2017

Comment: SCO expansion should not threaten the West, says Pantucci

MARCH 20 2017 (The Conway Bulletin) — The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has achieved remarkably little in its decade plus life.

Established formally in 2001, it grew out of a regional grouping aimed at seeking to define China’s borders with the former Soviet Union. Over time, it has expanded beyond its immediate neighbourhood to include countries as distant at Belarus and Sri Lanka as ‘dialogue partners’.

The current push to welcome both India and Pakistan is likely to further test the organisation’s already limited capability. The practical implications for Central Asia are unlikely to be dramatic, though in the longer term it may help bind Central and South Asia closer together and foster a greater sense of community across the Eurasian heartland.

In practical terms, the SCO has always been a fairly limited organisation. Seen initially by Russia as a way of controlling Chinese activity in Central Asia, for Beijing it has provided a useful umbrella under which to pursue their stealthy expansion in the region. For Central Asian powers, it provided another format in which to engage their larger neighbours. While the primary thrust of its activity has been in the security space, China has regularly sought to push it in an economic direction.

Yet, at the same time, all of the countries involved have largely pursued their own national interests through other pathways. The most recent demonstration was the establishment by Beijing of the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism (QCCM). Focused on managing the security threats from Afghanistan, the QCCM in many ways replicates a function which one would have expected the SCO to deliver.

The addition of Pakistan and India to the grouping is unlikely to change this dynamic.

All of the nations involved in the SCO will continue to function through their own bilateral and other multilateral engagements. But it will offer another forum in which India and Pakistan are obliged to interact and will also help further tie Central and South Asia together. These ties have been growing for some time. Kazakhstan has expressed an interest in participating in the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Indian President Narendra Modi visited Central Asia last year.

If India and Pakistan join the SCO, it will further help tie them together.

By Raffaello Pantucci, director of International Security Studies at the London-based Royal United Service Institute (RUSI).


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(News report from Issue No. 321, published on March 20 2017)

SCO chief: India & Pakistan will join within three months

ALMATY, MARCH 10 2017 (The Conway Bulletin) — India and Pakistan could become members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) by June, its Secretary-General Rashid Alimov said in a message that will raise concern in the West about the growing influence of the Russia and China-led security and economic alliance.

If, or perhaps when, India and Pakistan, join the SCO it will give the organisation leverage over roughly 40% of the world’s population and extend its geographical focus away from Central Asia towards South Asia.

Mr Alimov, Tajikistan’s former ambassador to Beijing who has been heading the SCO’s secretariat since 2016, put out the statement on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

There has been no official confirmation of Mr Alimov’s message but last year both Pakistan and India did sign an agreement pledging to join the six member group by the end of 2017. On June 8/9, the SCO plans to hold its annual summit in Astana.

Some analysts in the West have previously likened the SCO to an Asian version of NATO, set up to act as an alternative global rallying point to the West. Other observers have said that the comparison is off the mark and that the SCO is a long way off being as developed a military alliance as NATO.

Alongside Russia and China, the SCO members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia also have ‘observer’ status in the SCO, which is headquartered in Beijing and was set up in 2001.

The SCO holds war exercises, hosts diplomatic and governmental get-togethers and shares intelligence between members. It also promotes economic cooperation, allowing China to invest in Central Asia.


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(News report from Issue No. 320, published on March 13 2017)


Pakistan and India signed pledges to join SCO in Uzbekistan

JUNE 26 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) — Pakistan and India signed pledges to join the Russia and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2017 at the group’s annual summit meeting, held this year in Tashkent. This would be the first time since its inception in 15 years ago that the SCO has expanded beyond its core focusof Central Asia. China, in particular, has used the SCO to expand its influence across Central Asia.


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(News report from Issue No. 287, published on July 1 2016)


Editorial: The SCO

JULY 1 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) — The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will expand next year to include Pakistan and India. Since its inception in Shanghai in 2001, the SCO has been led by China and Russia. It was formed to extend their influence over their shared near-abroad — Central Asia. SCO members include all the Central Asian states other than Turkmenistan.

Western analysts have previously referred to it as Russia and China’s version of NATO, mainly because of the very visible war games that it stages each year. But this is only one component of the SCO. More important, but less visible are the various social and economic projects conducted through the SCO apparatus. These have mainly involved China. Indeed it has given China a major footprint in the region and helped to extend its influence.

By opening up the SCO to Pakistan and India, the SCO is potentially changing its remit from a regional, Central Asia focused group to a far wider organisation that takes in the two most populous countries in the world. It may become less useful as an organisation to develop Central Asia and more useful as group for larger countries to discuss their problems.


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(Editorial from Issue No. 287, published on July 1 2016)

SCO leaders gather in Uzbekistan for summit

JUNE 23 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) – The presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan gathered in Tashkent to kick-start the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), together with their colleagues from Russia and China and Uzbek host, President Islam Karimov. The members are set to vote on June 24 to begin the membership process for India and Pakistan, currently observer countries.


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(News report from Issue No. 286, published on June 24 2016)


Uzbekistan closes borders for SCO summit

JUNE 15 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) – The Uzbek government ordered the closure of land borders for ten days to try to insulate the country from potential Islamic militant attacks ahead of a meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) heads of states, scheduled for next week.

Leaders from Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan will join Uzbek President Islam Karimov at the annual SCO summit in Tashkent on June 23/24.

Uzbekistan has emphasised its efforts in combating terrorism, one of the pillars of the SCO, and wants to demonstrate its ability to become a safe haven of peace in Central Asia.

Analysts said that closing its border crossing checkpoints is a way of demonstrating control over its territory and its capacity to fence off potential terrorists from abroad.

The authorities dismissed earlier rumours that Tashkent would be closed off during the summit.

“There will be enhanced security checks, but the city will operate in normal mode,” the Uzbek ministry of interior said in a statement.

In the weeks leading up to the summit, the Tashkent city administration ordered a clean-up of the capital. Reports said that hundreds of satellite dishes were removed from houses on Prospekt Kosmonavtov,a main road in Tashkent which runs down to Mr Karimov’s official residence.


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(News report from Issue No. 285, published on June 17 2016)


Kyrgyzstan to host SCO wargames

MARCH 17 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) – Kyrgyzstan will host the main military exercise for members of the Russia and China led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) later this year. Media said that the military exercise, involving soldiers from all the SCO’s members will be the biggest held in Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are also members of the SCO which has an economic, social and military agenda.


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(News report from Issue No. 272, published on March 18 2016)