|The summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) no longer produce a regional or global sensation, RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev writes. |
Therefore, the upcoming summit in Yekaterinburg, Urals, on June 15-16 is viewed as a routine meeting and part of the organization's regular annual schedule, which stipulates meetings and conferences in dozens of cities conducted by some 20 specialized SCO branches, from the Business Council to the SCO High-Speed Information Highway.
The SCO is a regional intergovernmental alliance that comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The group primarily addressed security issues, but has recently moved to embrace economic and energy projects.
Many people view it as a Russian-Chinese project set up for the joint development of an economically important Central Asian region. Others say it is a perfect tool for implementing the policies of such countries as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which seek to balance the interests of different partners so as to prevent any one of them from becoming a dominant force in the region.
The SCO observer countries – India, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia – can potentially play an important role in the organization, and the number of countries interested in taking part in its work keeps growing.
The SCO summit in Yekaterinburg is expected to focus on international cooperation in Afghanistan and the possibility of SCO expansion, Dmitry Kosyrev writes.
The latter issue is highly important, because many countries would like to join the organization. One of the key goals of the Russian presidency of the SCO was to draft its statutory documents and the principles for admitting new members. The SCO summit in Yekaterinburg is likely to decide against expanding the organization, just like the ASEAN no longer accepts new members.
The SCO appears to be self-sufficient, but what about its relations with other countries?
North America and Europe sometimes seem offended that a growing number of organizations around the world see respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs as their key priorities.
The SCO is one of such organizations; it takes decisions on the basis of consensus and respect for the political and cultural distinctions of the member states.
At the same time, no organization is willing to abandon cooperation with the United States or the European Union, provided it is based on the principles of equality and respect for each other.
There is a dire need for such cooperation. The NATO and SCO conferences in March showed that the two organizations are prepared to cooperate in Afghanistan. The six SCO states welcome the policy of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has declared Afghanistan and Pakistan a number one priority.
Therefore, the SCO summit in Yekaterinburg may vote for cooperation with the U.S. and NATO. This will be evidence of the organization's willingness to cooperate with non-regional forces, and not only in Afghanistan.
Apart from summits, the SCO agenda also includes many other meetings held to discuss different spheres of SCO work.
Security issues are giving way to economic problems on its agenda, although the organization's defense and foreign ministers, secretaries of the SCO countries' Security Councils, and heads of the SCO drug enforcement agencies and interior ministries meet regularly.
Still, the focus is shifting to economic matters. Relevant examples are a meeting of the SCO economic ministers and business leaders held in St. Petersburg to discuss ways to overcome the global economic crisis, and the projects to build the E40 international transport corridor, a motor road from China to Uzbekistan via Kyrgyzstan, and a multimodal freight transportation terminal in Kashgar, China.
The SCO is establishing Network University to train personnel for specific projects, and SCO experts meet regularly to discuss the situation in the region, for example at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Far Eastern Studies.
And one last thing: The summit in Yekaterinburg will last for two days for the first time in the SCO history, because the organization has great many problems to discuss.
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