Uzbekistan and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) : contributing to Eurasian and Global geopolitical stability

The presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization SCO) is currently held by  Uzbekistan for 2015-2016.  The  anniversary session of the SCO Heads of States Council, is to be held in Tashkent on 23-24 June 2016. An Action Plan for 2016-2020 on implementing the SCO development strategy until 2025 is under scrutiny for approval by member states.

Why is the success of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) objectives under Uzbek presidency  equally important for the geopolitical interests of Europe ?

A look at the map (above) illustrating the Alliances in the world and the major conflict and potential instability zones, underlines striking realities of today's world.

First of all, the two major stability zones amid a world drifting towards instability, conflicts and growing uncertainty are the Euro-Atlantic space covered by NATO and the Eurasian area covered by the Shanghai Cooperation organization (SCO). On the margins of these two groupings, conflicts and  security threats can endanger these "Islands of peace". The danger of terrorism is already more and more present in these two zones and it is therefore a crucial objective to contain these fast growing internal security threats coming from the crisis zones.

Second, the Shanghai Cooperation organization (SCO) is covering the major part of the Eurasian landmass, and therefore, the future of the organization is crucial to word stability.

Third, Central Asia with Uzbekistan in particular play a pivotal role in maintaining  stability  on the Eurasian landmass for different reasons :  Uzbekistan is the pivot of Central Asia because of its geographical position and possess the largest population in Central Asia. Uzbekistan is also a geopolitical lock to prevent instability from Afghanistan and Middle East to spread to the whole of Central Asia, and therefore to Russia, China. This is also of decisive importance for Europe, because if there is no peace and stability on the Eastern part of Eurasia, there is no chance to have peace and stability on the Western part because of the growing interdependences in energy, commerce, migrations flows, terrorism.           

What are the short term achievement so far of the Uzbek presidency of SCO in this respect  ?

On the initiative of Uzbekistan, the mechanism of meetings of Secretaries of Security Councils was  already launched in 2004. This mechanism proved to be an effective institution of the SCO. As integral part of its institutional system, these consultations are useful  to coordinate the efforts of member states in ensuring security and stability in the space covered by the SCO.  and cooperation  in combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, illicit arms and drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, and international information security.

The SCO Regional Antiterrorist Structure Executive Committee, operating in Tashkent,  has also been strengthened by the Uzbek government, in particular for the implementation of practical decisions in areas like anticipation, suppression and neutralization of terrorism, separatism and extremism and other challenges and threats on the territory of the SCO member states.

The expansion of SCO to improve Eurasian security

A look at the map (above) again indicates that the relations between India and Pakistan and their effect on Afghanistan,  plays a crucial role for future stability and security, not only for South-West Asia, but also because of the potential domino effect on Central Asia, and therefore, the entire Eurasian continent from Europe to China. 

During the Ufa summit of the SCO in 2015, Uzbekistan along with other member states strongly supported the accession process of India and Pakistan to the SCO as full members. An Action Plan (Roadmap) for the provision of India and Pakistan's full membership in the SCO has been submitted to SCO. The enlargement of SCO to India and Pakistan is an opportunity to bring more stability and cooperation between these two countries, and this would be beneficial for the rest of the world.

The stabilizing effect of SCO will be also experimented far beyond, till South-East Asia and Caucasus : Within the framework of Uzbekistan's Presidency, Memoranda of granting the dialogue partner status with Cambodia was signed in September 2015. Memorandums with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nepal have been also signed In March-April 2016.

How to achieve geopolitical stability on the Eurasian continent?

Synergy and not rivalry !

On a longer term basis, the strengthening of the SCO is also a major factor for improving global security.

There are mainly two ways to think about the future of Eurasian and global security.

One way is to enlarge the Euro-Atlantic organizations  deep on the Eurasian continent. This would mean in a shorter term a deepening of Partnership for Peace programmes with Eastern European states, Caucasus and Central Asian states, and in a longer term perspective, further extension of NATO and EU in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. This approach was actively promoted until recently, but the recent proliferation of crisis on the southern range of the Eurasian continent with the Arab revolutions,  but also in the middle of  Europe with the Ukraine crisis, remind us this option is not the best scenario. There would be a danger of overstretching of Euro-Atlantic and European organizations like NATO, OSCE, EU, and also a deepening of disagreements with other important actors like Russia and China, but also between EU and NATO members states who are not able and therefore not willing to have new commitments.       

The second approach suppose the acceptance by the Western countries of the emergence of other international organizations whose objectives are contributing to Eurasian and world stability. The strengthening of SCO should not be perceived in the West as a geopolitical rival, but a future partner to manage multipolarity. It is in the long-term  interest of Euro-Atlantic structures to be complemented by other international organizations like Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to stabilize the Eurasian continent.  

SCO and Eurasian security architecture

To achieve future stability and reduce geopolitical rivalries at Eurasian and global scale in a multipolar world,  it is necessary to manage and contain the centrifugal forces in the world with an security architecture fully adapted to this new emerging multipolar world.  

A look at the diagram below is illustrating how this security architecture is emerging :

These netting of institutions looking alike "Olympic circles" is in symbiosis with the emerging multipolar world and the need to maintain a balance between different poles of power, alliances and political and security Institutions representing their interests. This political and security institutional architecture is promoting synergies between interleaved organizations like  NATO, EU, OSCE, OCS, OTSC and should lead to more stability.

The overlapping security spaces from Vancouver to Vladivostok  (NATO and OSCE, USA-EU-Russia),  future Lisbon to Vladivostok (UE-Russia) ?, St Petersburg to Peking (OCS) and Minsk-Duchanbe (OTSC). In-between spaces between these structures would be subject to common stabilization policies or "non-aggression agreements".

This model of Eurasian architecture is compatible with the model promoted by the SCO and Uzbek presidency. The role of Uzbekistan is therefore very important for making possible a new and successful emerging security architecture. The Uzbek presidency has insisted on further enhancing the status of the SCO as an influential international structure and expanding its cooperation with key international organizations. This is in full line with the Uzbek foreign policy doctrine. The Uzbek foreign policy based on a multivectorial doctrine maintaining balance in all directions, and is willing to prove it is contributing to stability and reduce rivalry between great powers. Uzbekistan is member of SCO, is a partner of the NATO Partnership for Peace and a major actor of the EU Central Asia strategy. Uzbekistan has therefore strong interest in promoting cooperation and complementarity between these organizations, and avoid geopolitical rivalry.  The success of the Uzbek model is important as this country occupies a very pivotal position in the middle of Central Asia and  Eurasia,  play the role of a geopolitical lock to prevent instability from Afghanistan and Middle East to spread to the whole of central Asia, and therefore to Russia and China, and Europe.

Beyond security

The objective of the SCO Uzbek presidency is also to promote its territory to become a hub for commercial and energetic routes, and promote Central Asia as a hub for Eurasian transport corridors. This would contribute to economic security but also future prosperity, reinforcing at the same time prospects for stability.

On 23-24 June,  Tashkent is hosting the Council meeting of the SCO Interbank Association and the Board of the SCO Business Council. It is planned to exchange views on enhancing the participation of business and financial circles of member states and observer states of the SCO in the trade and investment cooperation, financing the projects with a focus on infrastructure construction, basic industries, high-tech, export-oriented economy and social projects in the SCO member countries.

A SCO Program for the Development of Cooperation in the field of tourism is also under discussion and Cultural and humanitarian cooperation.