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A Win-Win in Central Asia

The upcoming SCO summit is the optimum time for member countries to take a fresh new look at the Energy Club initiative.

Every year, the diplomatic calendar for the Eurasian region is cleared in early June to make way for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit. It is an annual meeting wherein a selected group of Eurasian countries comes together to deliberate on geopolitical, geo-economic and strategic ‘interests’ of the region.

Like most regional organizations, the fact that the SCO has no implementation capacity is perceived by some scholars to limit it to a talk shop. However as geostrategic analyst Brahma Chellaney puts it, the withdrawal of the U.S., via President Trump’s decision, from various multilateral arrangements put the rule-based world order at risk and created a gloomy situation. In such a scenario, the SCO can be qualified as a high-performing group just by being functional and having no withdrawals.

The SCO was established in 2001 by the Shanghai Five (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) as a grouping intended to build trust in their border regions. At the Shanghai Five summit 2001 in China, Uzbekistan was added to the group and the Declaration of the SCO was signed, institutionalizing it furthermore. The first nominal expansion of the organisation took place in 2005 at the Astana summit in Kazakhstan, at which India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia were added as observer countries, and Sri Lanka, Belarus and Turkey became dialogue partners. But a major expansion happened in 2017 when India and Pakistan were admitted as full members of the organization. This expansion means that the SCO now accounts for half of the world’s population, about a quarter of the world’s GDP and 80 percent of the Eurasian landmass. These numbers should not be construed to mean that the SCO has a hugely important role in the geopolitics of Eurasia and the world. Though it has the potential, the current reality is quite different.


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