Tajikistan and its role in public diplomacy for enhancing regional and global connectivity are significant. It is important to mention that after independence on 9th September 1991 Tajikistan has been recognized as a new state of the former USSR by the countries of the world. Later on by adopting its “open door”, policy the state begins its external relations with the regions and the countries of the world consequently.
The country initiated its diplomatic relations with South East Asia regions especially, China on 4th January 1992, Pakistan on 6th June 1992, and India on 28th august 1992 respectfully.
Tajikistan as part of the Central Asian regions has special following features considered as main role player state in the world: Full of ancient history, Exclusive Culture, and language, a Place of ancient literature and poets, Located on the historical Silk Route side, Wide-ranging vast of natural resources and hydro-energy powers, Home of World high mountains, World attractive outlandish area, the base of pure fresh waters and historical rivers.
Tajikistan as a country full of traditions and a peace-loving nation always promotes SCO member regions thru public diplomacy toward mutual socio-economy coordination. The country National Unity (vahdati milli) is adopted as a model of peace in the charter of UN organization to be followed by the conflicted regions and nations of the world.
SCO role in regional integration
The role of organizations and institutions, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in strengthening relations between countries is considered very important. Here we consider it necessary to consider the analytical opinion of specialists in the field.
Andre Hantke, a specialist in international relations at the University of Nottingham Nigbo China, expressed his views on the joining of the countries of India and Pakistan to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which can be studied.
It is worth noting that with the announcement of the 2016 summit in the city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the heads of the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization accepted India and Pakistan as full members of the Organization in 2017.
It is worth noting that the main decisions on the expansion of the SCO were explained at the Dushanbe Summit in 2014, while the decision to admit both countries to a full membership at the 2015 meeting in the Russian city of Ufa has been discussed for a long time.
This decision caused many debates within the SCO to speed up the organization’s expansion. But the leadership of the SCO formally accepted the commitments of India and Pakistan in 2017.
Both countries India and Pakistan were previously observers within the SCO have repeatedly requested full membership in order to play a more important role in regional development.
The SCO embassy initially studied all aspects before the start of its expansion, and as a result, all members agreed to join these two large countries of the South Asian region.
Initially, they were concerned about the new challenges that would come along with the expansion, but China suggested that it would be in the best interest of the organization to join them if the conditions were right.
Later on, during the Tashkent summit, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Wang proposed the goals of the further development of the SCO, in his opinion, the expansion of this organization could be an instructional process.
Noted that the inclusion of India and Pakistan means a new stage of development of the organization, which is based on the improved structure and consensus of member states through consultation and advice.
Despite all the opportunities created by the first expansion of the SCO since 2001, concerns about the lack of integration between Pakistan and India will continue to hinder cooperation.
Experts believe that the merger of the two may not only make finding common ground in decision-making somewhat difficult and undermine the ambitious agenda of the SCO development strategy for 2025, but it may also raise questions about the legal and regulatory framework of the SCO.
It should be noted that the foundation of the SCO in 2001 is related to the official accession of Uzbekistan, which was created with the establishment of the Shanghai Five organization (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) in Shanghai.
The Shanghai Five Organization was established in 1996 to solve the border demarcation issues after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Along with focusing on solving these issues, they also included the issues of transnational terrorism, separatism, and extremism in their work agenda.
In 2000, the Chinese president proposed cooperation as a regional institution should include economic and cultural aspects.
Thus, the regulatory framework of the SCO became dependent on the “New Security Concept» developed in 1997. This concept, which lays the groundwork for future cooperation, emphasizes sovereignty, territorial integrity, and mutual intervention.
The basic Shanghai Agreement, which is the normative framework of the organization, includes concerns about the already well-protected sovereignty of Asian states, whose traditional understanding differs from that of the Western Hemisphere.
The SCO values of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and efforts for joint development, which include non-interference in internal affairs and peaceful coexistence, help in bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
While these values create a call for cooperation within the SCO, they also help the organization simply hope for consensus and goodwill to implement its decisions within states.
However, some experts are of the opinion that the lack of implementation mechanisms and coordination of agreements can create obstacles to the further development of the organization in the absence of proper consultations.
According to Article 16 of the Charter of the SCO, when a member state withdraws its participation in a multilateral project, it does not prohibit bilateral cooperation.
The SCO framework limits the organization’s prospects for developing into anything more than a regional forum for the specific interests of member states. The former president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, emphasized that the SCO should not become a “bureaucratic and paper organization”.
Given the ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, the ability to reach an agreement within the framework of the SCO is limited, but it seems unlikely that this dispute will be resolved with the participation of the organization.
Because neither party is interested in external intervention in the conflict. However, it must be noted that future agreements, which are more relevant to India and Pakistan, should take into account the nature of the dispute and resolve possible conflicts through bilateral negotiations without taking sides.
In such conditions, the development of the SCO from a unified multilateral regional body, which, with the agreement of all members, to a more sovereign body that prevents the emergence of interests, can succeed in its expansion and thus not encounter obstacles and difficulties.
It is worth noting that China and Russia, which are the founders of the SCO, are cooperative and dependent on Central Asian countries with financial aid. However, the region considered it important for China to implement the “One Belt and One Road” initiative.
Thus, with the entry of new partners on the scene, the Central Asian republics will now have the opportunity to diversify their relations, thereby balancing the traditional influence of China and Russia.
India also struggled with its huge demand for electricity by using the natural and mineral resources of Central Asia. An example is the Сhabahar port agreement, which the Prime Minister of India recently signed with Iran connecting Central Asia regions. In addition, India has already announced its support for the idea of the “Energy Strategy for Asia” proposed by Kazakhstan.
Thus by signing the СASA-1000 agreement, the country Pakistan is also trying to make good use of the resources of Central Asia to overcome its electricity and energy problems.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the basis of regional security, which was once the first priority for the members of the SCO organization, the fight against terrorism and extremism, can become a means to develop consensus and cooperation between the member countries in order to protect the region from all kinds of threats.
It is worth mentioning that on November 10, 2020, the presidency of the SCO was under Tajikistan until 2021, and its results and summary conclusions and the 20th anniversary of its establishment under the slogan “20 years of the SCO – cooperation for Development Day” celebrated in Tajikistan.
Consequently, India and Pakistan, as advanced and developed countries with good military, economic, industrial, and commercial experiences and members of world organizations and institutions, including the UN and the SAARC regional organization, can make their cooperation with the SCO a partner and guide the region towards a better tomorrow.
In conclusion, Tajikistan recognizes the South East Asian especially China, Pakistan, India, and their role as a modern developed state of the region and is ready to continue its cooperation and coordination under SCO agreed on charters effectively.
The programs and activities of the SCO Centre for Friendship and Cooperation in Tajikistan is the best valuable example of the country involved under the charter of Shanghai Spirit.
We all hope and understand the value of SCO Spirit and its member states working jointly to enhance the political, security, trade, economy, culture, and other main sectors for the prosperity of their people thru the use of public diplomacy.
Constantly the SCO member states can work as consultative teams to solve Afghanistan issues and help the country to make its inclusive government accordingly.
Finally, I suggest for the participants of the Webinar hosted by the Centre for SCO Studies- Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies seminar follow the formula of PACE as a module tool (good and operative step) for an effective analyzer scale among all Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states to strengthen its Spirit of Public Diplomacy and hope the conference will be profitable for us in every aspect:
Promote peace prosperity and productivity between the region and the world
Activate their adopted public diplomacy points practically
Cooperate in preserving culture, traditions, peace, good-neighborliness friendship, and history with keenness and tolerance
Economize the natural resources, and share them with fair-mindedness
By such meaningful indulgence, all SCO members can also increase their trade and investment by the use of active and effective cooperation of a team of states.
* The writer is a Senior research analyst, Institute of Euro Asia Studies, Department of South East Asia, National Academy of Sciences Tajikistan.
*The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.