Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, January 21st, 2018

14th Prime Ministers’ Meeting of SCO

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Abdullah attended the 14th prime ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in China on Tuesday and Wednesday, where Afghanistan participated as an observer country and the CEO was able to have some important sideline meetings.

SCO summit was basically founded in 2001 by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan was given an observer status at the 2012 SCO summit in Beijing on June 6, 2012. Pakistan and India have been granted full membership status as well, while Iran and Mongolia, like Afghanistan, have observer status in the organization.

Before CEO Abdullah’s visit some MP’s even suggested that Afghanistan should also request for a full membership in the organization, but no formal declaration of such a request has been made by Abdullah.

Afghanistan’s relations with regional countries are undoubtedly very important. If it wants to be successful in the post withdrawal era, it has to tighten the ties will are the regional countries particularly, with China and Russia. Full membership of SCO can support Afghanistan in having better role in the Organization and at the same time take more advantages of cooperation and interdependence with the member countries.

CEO Abdullah managed to meet Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the Conference and discussed bilateral relations and improving of ties between the two countries. Both the leaders discussed that Russia and Afghanistan has good relations and this can be developed further in economic sections. And both countries face common challenges which need for joint cooperation and aside from these challenges, there are opportunities that both countries can use.

The Russian prime minister called Afghanistan a good neighbor and said that in the past Afghanistan was a strategic ally to Russia. He said that his country wants to improve this friendship.

Meanwhile, Abdullah also met with the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, Vijay Kumar Singh and discussed Afghanistan and India relations. During the meeting, Abdullah called India a good friend of Afghanistan and acknowledged India’s help in the past few years and in providing Afghanistan with helicopters. Abdullah said that helping Afghanistan’s air force was a good step for consolidation of the relation of both sides and hoped that such efforts take place in future.

There is no doubt in the fact that Afghanistan is going through some very serious challenges regarding growing insecurity nowadays. Taliban insurgents have continued their fighting more fiercely and they have been able to gain the control of different districts in different provinces of the country. The northern parts of the country that used to be comparatively peaceful are now the main targets of the insurgents and certain districts in Kunduz and Badakhshan have come under their control. In recent weeks, even the capital Kabul has experienced some very threatening attacks even in the most guarded parts of the city.

At the same time, the threats of growing number of Daesh recruits are also alarming. In order to face the dual challenge of fighting both Taliban and Daesh, Afghanistan would definitely require support from the regional countries, in particular. The SCO members can play a positive role in this regard and their dedicated attention regarding the growing insecurity in Afghanistan is of immense importance. Both Russia and China have accepted the fact that the growth of Daesh in Afghanistan can be a regional threat, and they have also emphasized on a strategy to combat this threat. If this emphasis is turned into practical steps, it would immensely support in disheartening Daesh’s growth in Afghanistan.

In similar fashion, to control the threat of Taliban and to support Afghanistan in making peace talks successful with them, the worth of regional countries cannot be denied. Afghanistan, to a large extent, has relied on the role of Pakistan in this regard. President Ghani since the beginning of his government has strived for improved relations with Pakistan and emphasized on its role in holding peace talks with Taliban. Pakistan on the other hand has shown willingness in this regard as well. Few days earlier, during the Heart of Asia Conference in Islamabad the leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to restart the peace process that had faced stalemate after the talks in Murree. There are hopes that the process may restart with a new zeal and commitment. It is also important that both the countries come closer to each other through SCO platform, provided that Afghanistan is able to acquire permanent membership.

It is really imperative for the regional countries to see the problem of insecurity in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a collective issue and must cooperate so that the issue is addressed properly and on time. They seem to realize that they require acting collectively to face this threat but it is important that they must be able to put in practice comprehensive strategy to tackle the situation. Words and promises alone have never and would never solve the issue of terrorism and insurgency. Practical solutions are the only way out of the quagmire that can swallow the whole region in no time.