SCO and Regional Integration

SCO SUmmit held at Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Dr. Muhammad Akram Zaheer

The modern system of the world is facing a state of imbalance as it passes through the phase of change and evolutionary development. Globalization has emerged as the main trend in international relations and deepens the interdependency between countries of the world. The rapidly increasing interdependency contributes for countries to get close to one another and protecting their interests. The desire of extending economic and trade activities, access to the capital markets, and contracts for investment are encouraging countries to work together and to cooperate. The cooperation for economic activities, trade, transportation, information, communication, and transmission are making the countries and regions united. Thus, regionalization has emerged as a new form and process of interaction among the countries of the world.

Many countries are striving to establish a system of cooperation with their neighbors to enhance their potential and also to facilitate each other for solutions to regional issues. Thereby, regionalization has taken the diverse forms of regional integration including the establishment of a multinational regulatory system and flexible model of cooperation and partnership in different areas and at different levels. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an outstanding example of regionalization and hybrid and new mixed model of interstate multifaceted cooperation.

SCO was established in 2001 to meet the objectives of regional security and stability. Since its establishment, the organization has continued the evolutionary path of multifaceted and multilateral cooperation. SCO is moving systematically along the path of finding the common attribute in resolving the regional issues. The SCO also has the potential of unique perimeters, new opportunities, and directions of further development in the areas of security, economics, and other mutual interests. The organization comprises 43 percent of the world population and 25 percent of global GDP. Similarly, it covers 80 percent area of Eurasia. Although the SCO is a young organization than the other international associations but it has the ability to achieve mutually beneficial solutions to political, economic, and security issues and it also leads to the accumulation of unresolved issues of the region. However, the size never conflates with influence and effectiveness.

Since the foundation of SCO, the high hopes of diplomatic relations, effective economic and security cooperation were made by the founding members. It was also expected that the organization may bring regional cohesion to Central Asia and it would create great opportunities for the regional states of mutual trade and economic activities, and it will lead towards security promotion of the region. The founding partners of the SCO had an ambitious plan for transforming the organization into a cohesive bloc with political and economic integration. There was also a hope that the organization may counter the influence of EAEU and CSTO and will maintain its own influence in the region. However, there is now a stronger need than ever to achieve regional collaboration results.

China and Russia are the primary drivers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Both countries share a common interest in regional stability within the organization. Russia thinks of SCO as security to prevent encroachment by outside powers NATO, UE, and United States, and also a tool to maintain its geopolitical domination on the region and less than a partnership in Central Asia. Since the post-cold war, the economic imbalance has increased between China and Russia. China is increasing its economic influence in Central Asia while Russia is building partnerships on security issues. As the issues of uncertainty in Afghanistan, Pakistan-India confrontation, and instability on the China-India border are a clear threat to the interests of all member states. However, SCO is trying to come out of a joint mechanism to play a decisive collective role in Afghanistan post-withdrawal United States and NATO forces.

China considers that economic activities and investment can mitigate instability in the region. Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a  Chinese way to project soft power and economic influence in Central Asia and beyond. Therefore, Beijing has been continued its investment in the region and through BRI and SCO. Moscow already has upended its relationship with the West over the Ukraine issue, thus, in these circumstances.

Nowadays Shanghai Cooperation Organization is coexisting with other regional initiatives like BRI, AIIB, CSTO, and EAEU. Both China and Russia have expressed their intentions to work within these institutions. Although the SCO is facing many structural and organizational challenges all the members focus on regional connectivity projects they should avoid viewing these projects as a political prism but rather pursue them for the achievement of sustainable development in the region.

*The writer is PhD in Political Science and Lecturer at Informatics Groups of College Arifwala


*Views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Magazine. 



  1. Well-connected, verbose and comprehensive analysis. I like and admire the remedial suggestion for the revival of regional cooperation organizations as said by writer,”Although the SCO is facing many structural and organizational challenges all the members focus on regional connectivity projects they should avoid viewing these projects as a political prism but rather pursue them for the achievement of sustainable development in the region.”

Leave a Reply