Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Regional Cooperation to be Stepped up in SCO Summit

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Regional Cooperation to be  Stepped up in SCO Summit

Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani traveled to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek to attend the 19th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The meeting will carry increasing significance for Afghanistan, which is an observer state of the SCO.
Last year, China hosted the SCO meeting with the participation of heads of states, including President Ghani from Afghan side. The SCO signed a protocol with the Afghan government during the SCO Heads of State summit in Qingdao, China, to establish the Afghanistan Contact Group, a consultative mechanism for developing proposals and recommendations to support the country for establishing a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.
Heads of states meet in Bishkek at the time of immense challenges to regional stability. The three evil forces of terrorism, separatism, and extremism as well as political confrontation loom large across the region. Militant groups carry out indiscriminate attacks in regional countries, mainly Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the self-styled Islamic State group still remains a serious threat to the region. The Easter Sunday deadly bombings in Sri Lanka, which is a dialogue partner to the SCO, on April 21 suggests that terrorist groups seek to extend their reach across the region and target people on the basis of their faith, race, and color.
Meanwhile, poverty remains a formidable challenge in many countries in the region. Worst of all, poverty and hunger have been compounded as a result of regional conflict. For instance, a large number of civilians, including women and children, suffer severely in the wake of famine and hunger in Syria and Yemen.
The SCO participants will discuss regional security and poverty issues in the summit and reaffirm their commitment to promoting cooperation to address the ongoing challenges.
To mitigate insurgency as well as poverty, the SCO stakeholders have to promote mutual cooperation and trade and investment. That is, the SCO members, observers and dialogue partners have to reinforce their economic cooperation and join forces to combat terrorism.
The SCO summit provides a multilateral platform not only for commercial exchanges but also cultural interaction and people-to-people contacts. Regional stakeholders have to reinforce cultural exchanges so as to promote mutual understanding and mutual trust.
It should be noted that violation of human rights and humanitarian law is one of the serious issues across the region. The rights, liberties, and dignity of individuals are widely trampled upon in one way or another. People are killed simply on the grounds of their race, color, or gender. Meanwhile, Yemeni men, women, and children bear the brunt of violence and bloodshed as a result of the attacks carried out by Saudi-led coalition forces.
With this in mind, the SCO members, observers, and dialogue partners have to step up their struggles for protecting the rights and liberties of all individuals across the region and put pressure on warring sides to resolve their issues through communication rather than confrontation. Hence, all regional and global stakeholders need to pave the ground for smooth exercise of human rights and humanitarian law.
The SCO stakeholders are supposed to establish mutual trust, friendly relations, and good neighborliness and promote the culture of dialogue and interaction so that they could mitigate regional problems and challenges. In other words, they have to promote the “Shanghai Spirit” – i.e. mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity, and pursuit of common development.
Adhering to the international principles, stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter, SCO stakeholder have to respect the cultural values and social norms of all nations and step up their struggles for trust-building.
The issue of Afghanistan is highly serious as militant groups, notably the Taliban, have intensified their terrorist activities. Afghan soldiers and civilians have sustained heavy casualties in the last 18 years of conflict. Having said that, peace and prosperity still remain elusive in Afghanistan. Thus, regional stakeholders and SCO members have to support Afghanistan in its campaign against terrorism. They have to reinforce their military support to Afghanistan, with regard to international principles, to eliminate terrorism. Meanwhile, the SCO members are expected to put pressure on the Taliban to hold direct talks with the Afghan government and declare ceasefire.
It is believed that promoting Afghanistan from SCO’s observer to member state will mitigate some of the challenges in Afghanistan and the SCO members need to take this issue into account. Perhaps, this year’s summit will further contribute to the mitigation of regional challenges and President Ghani’s trip will be more fruitful.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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