Farhat Asif

In a rundown towards the main SCO Summit scheduled to be held in September, the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers was hosted by the current Chairman of the organization Uzbekistan.

Foreign Ministers from eight permanent members, four observer states, and nine dialogue partners along with representatives from other countries and international organizations were present for this important summit.

The meeting put forward the roadmap and finalized several important thresholds for the upcoming meeting in September.

The most significant development at the CFM meeting in Tashkent is the adoption of the Joint Statement on Strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention, an effective component to enforce the counter-proliferation of biological weapons and prevent their access to terror organizations for wider public safety.

The CFM further signed sixteen decisions while endorsing the cooperation in socio-economics, collective stance on global politics, financial structure, and challenges to SCO.

This year SCO is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the signing of the SCO Charter and also the 15th anniversary of the Treaty on Long-term Good Neighbourliness, Friendship, and Cooperation among SCO member states. This treaty and charter are at the core and at the heart of the SCO’s regional meaningful cooperation in the diverse sectors.

SCO as an organization has expanded across Asia covering nearly 3.2 billion people with 34 million sq km of land mass. The GDP of this region is contributing nearly 40 percent of the global GDP, with four nuclear powers and an important geostrategic landscape, SCO is an important multilateral institution having tremendous opportunities and challenges.

Right before the Summit, Tashkent hosted a conference/consultations with regional stakeholders on Afghanistan especially as the winter is setting in and when the first anniversary of the fall of Kabul is approaching on 15 August.

There was an echo about finding an indigenous solution to the regional problems especially in Afghanistan with less interference from foreign forces. Earlier a similar moot was hosted by Kyrgyzstan especially the consultative level discussion on regional challenges and building opportunities together within the Central Asian Republics (CARs).

Here the role of Uzbekistan is significant and while observing closely this seems a sense of responsible leadership from Tashkent. Especially for hosting these important Summits and consultative meetings, the spotlight is on Tashkent for its significant leadership in building regional peace and prosperity.

Uzbekistan is currently steering the SCO as a Chairman hence representing not only a country but making substantial headways in developing the SCO into a productive and active organization implementing significant consensus frameworks for peace.

During the yearlong chairmanship, Uzbekistan has organized more than 80 different meetings contributing to enriching the dialogue among countries in the SCO.

These events are ongoing and this year-long chairmanship will culminate in September during the Heads of State Summit meeting in Samarkand.

The heads of Government meeting will be hosted by China for high-level engagements on multiple issues of development and connectivity assuming the leadership role.

SCO is a resilient organization with active membership able to grasp the intensity of geopolitical developments. The CFM acknowledged the role of SCO in the continued engagement even during the pandemic to consolidate mutual trust and strategic understanding.

The promotion of regional integration, facilitation of people-to-people contact, and boosting development remain at the heart of the collective agenda to which CFM stressed to expand and deepen.

In this regard, CFM called on solidarity, sustainability, multilateralism, and ceaseless coordination at the organizational and bilateral levels.

SCO CFM meeting was important on multiple fronts especially as the global pandemic is still looming large on the horizon with monkeypox, a new wave and variant are threatening the world.

Geostrategic competition between major powers and subsequent conflicts followed by trade unilateralism present another ardent challenge to regional integration and globalization.

In efforts to overcome these challenges, well-coordinated and systemic cooperation is necessary without any delay under the umbrella of SCO, an effective regional organization in the world.

In the face of immense challenges, the CFM took notice of growing vulnerabilities and stressed upholding the Shanghai Spirit while taking a collective approach to mutual challenges.

During the meeting, the administrative mechanisms at the SCO secretariat and expansion-related matters were also discussed where Iran will be joining as a permanent member this year.

Given its agenda, this CFM meeting was timely convened when the region is facing the heat of war between Ukraine and Russia and hostility between the US and China in the South China Sea in trade and security domains.

It is high time for the entire SCO to create an adequate level of understanding to ward off external threats and look for inward growth and development.

*The writer is President, Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies

*The views expressed in this article do not reflect the position of the associated institutions.

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