Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is playing a very constructive role in the region: Masood Khan
Islamabad: SCO is playing a very constructive role in the region and its consolidation and expansion should be welcomed by all, said Masood Khan, Pakistan’s Ambassador to China in an interview to a Chinese magazine, China Business News, says a press release received here today from Beijing.
Ambassador Masood Khan said “the genesis and evolution of the SCO have filled up a vacuum in our immediate neighbourhood. The organization works for peace, security and stability in the region, ushers in a culture of political multipolarity, and promotes economic and information globalization. It is based on the norm of good-neighbourliness, which ensures regional harmony. In fact, the theme of harmony runs through its guiding philosophy and all its institutional structures. The SCO also demonstrates how nations sharing extended regional neighbourhoods should respect and promote cultural and civilizational diversities.
He said the SCO also reflects the consensus of its members (as well as its affiliated observers) to oppose the disruptive and destructive forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism. Equal emphasis is placed on fighting transnational crime whether it includes illicit narcotics or psychotropic substances or migration or arms and ammunitions trafficking. The regulatory architecture being developed by the SCO in the fields of border security, customs control, labour migration, and financial and information security will help create conditions of peace and security in the region.
Ambassador Khan said the SCO is enormously important for Pakistan. First, Pakistan is a close and contiguous neighbour of all SCO members. Thus, Pakistan is part of the geographical footprint of the SCO; in fact it is a natural extension of the SCO. Second, Pakistan fully subscribes to the aims and objectives of the SCO. Third, the connectivity once extended to Pakistan would help realize the full potential of the SCO, as Pakistan’s territory connects China and Central Asia with the Gulf and South Asia.
He said the “SCO knows that security follows the artery of trade and economic cooperation. Therefore, the Organization has made efforts to promote connectivity through trade, transportation and energy corridors. These efforts have already brought member states closer economically and have now whetted the appetite of other nations to emulate this model of regional cooperation. Finally, the SCO believes that borders are inviolate and that it is incumbent on all nations to respect sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of other states.”
Commenting on Pakistan’s full membership of SCO he mentioned that Pakistan is already an active observer of the SCO. We have been attending all its summits at the level of the President and Prime Minister. We have also been active in the activities of the subsidiary bodies of the SCO. Pakistan has submitted a formal application for the membership of the organization. Last year, the SCO adopted the rules for admitting new members; and this year at the Astana Summit there is a strong likelihood that the Memorandum of Obligation will be adopted. After this we look forward to entering into formal negotiations for entry.
He said Pakistan and India joined SCO together as observers. India too has now applied formally for the membership. If Pakistan and India both join the SCO as full members, there will be naturally focus more on South Asia, a region that abuts on the SCO members’ geography. This would pave the way for cooperation between SCO and South Asia and among nations of East, Central and South Asia. All states need to sincerely imbibe the grund norm of the SCO that any kind of cooperation should never be meant to target a third country.
Ambassador Khan said SCO has played a constructive role on Afghanistan. “It has established a contact group in Afghanistan to monitor the situation and has held at least four meetings on Afghanistan at the level of Foreign Minister. SCO has also rightly underlined the importance of peaceful reconstruction in Afghanistan, enhanced international assistance to the people of Afghanistan, and the need for the people of Afghanistan to take responsibilities in key areas including security and socio-economic development.
“Counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics strategies cannot succeed without cooperation and participation of Afghanistan. The SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure is engaged with Afghanistan. The emphasis is therefore rightly on joint SCO counter-terrorism exercises and creation of “anti-terrorism security belts.”
“The SCO believes that as we fight terrorism, we should simultaneously take steps to eradicate the root causes of this evil.”
He said all SCO members have good relations with the US and West European countries. Pakistan is an ally of the US; but it has a staunch strategic partnership with China. It is exploring close ties with Russia; and its ties with all Central Asian states are growing. Therefore, Pakistan is a natural partner of the SCO family. As the futuristic vision of the SCO unfolds, all concerns regarding it should disappear. Pakistan, for its part, does not feel any strain in its relations with the SCO and the United States.”
Responding to a question regarding the possibility of a change in the regional security situation in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s killing Masood Khan said Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity should be respected at all costs. We are grateful to the Chinese Government for calling the international community’s attention to the sacrifices given by Pakistan in the war against terrorism. In fact, so far 35,000 civilians have been killed in acts of terrorism and some 5,000 soldiers have laid down their lives. Pakistan will continue this fight in its own national security interest. But organized terrorism is a threat to the region and the globe. As we fight terrorists, we urge all states to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and give us practical assistance especially in the areas of technical equipment and know-how helpful in tracking and neutralizing terrorist networks.
He said the security situation in the region has not changed. Terrorists are as strong as ever. The fight therefore goes on. We should mobilize all resources to fight this menace. We have also decided to continue our cooperation and engagement with the United States in order to adopt a concerted strategy to oppose terrorism.
Masood Khan regarded Gwadar Port as a gift of China to Pakistan. “It is a symbol of our friendship and collaboration. We should take this collaboration forward. We should at the same time upgrade Karakoram Highway. A pre-feasibility has been done for a railroad from Havelian to Khunjerab to link Pakistan and China. We already have three direct air links between different cities of Pakistan and China. But the road and air links fall short of the real potential. Both sides are prioritizing such links in their five year economic and trade planning; and when we succeed in upgrading these links we will create multiple trade and transportation arteries connecting China to Pakistan and then to South-West Asia and the Middle East. This would no doubt bring prosperity to Pakistan but it will also be immensely beneficial for China as China’s trade routes and distances to the Gulf will be shortened.”
He regarded Pakistan-China relations as strong and getting stronger. We are blessed with the most precious value in inter-state relations: trust. Strategic and defence ties are the backbone of our relations. We are trying to expand our economic cooperation to many new areas. We are working on the area of people to people contacts. Aspirations of the people are the lifeblood of any interstate relationship. And we know that the Pakistan-China friendship is rooted in the hearts of the people.
He said “our immediate target is to increase bilateral trade from the current US $ 8.7 billion to US $ 15 billion in the next three to four years and to attract more Chinese investment in the energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and telecommunications sectors. We are also enhancing interaction among mediapersons, academics, youth, sportspersons, and parliamentarians of the two countries.”
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