SCO SUMMIT 2023 – What Can Pakistan Achieve From It?
By: Maarij Farooq
The upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Goa, India, in 2023 will present a significant opportunity for Pakistan to engage with regional partners and advance its interests. The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance comprising eight member states: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India, and Pakistan. Pakistan joined the SCO as a full member in 2017, making it the youngest member of the organization. The 2023 summit in Goa will be the first major multilateral forum for Pakistan since the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to yield significant benefits for the country.
Pakistan is a key strategic partner for both China and Russia, who are the main drivers of the SCO. The country occupies a unique geostrategic position at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East, and has long played a role as a bridge between the regions. As an SCO member, Pakistan has a platform to advance its economic and security interests and deepen its partnerships with other member states.
One of the main benefits for Pakistan in the 2023 SCO summit is the opportunity to deepen its economic ties with member states. The SCO has established a number of mechanisms for economic cooperation, including the SCO Business Council, the SCO Development Bank, and the SCO Interbank Consortium. Pakistan can leverage these mechanisms to attract investment, trade, and technology transfer from other member states, particularly China and Russia. In recent years, Pakistan has actively pursued closer economic ties with China through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The SCO summit in Goa could provide an opportunity for Pakistan to broaden its economic partnerships beyond China and explore new avenues for economic cooperation with other member states.
Another area where Pakistan can focus in the SCO summit is in the realm of security cooperation. The SCO has established a Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) to enhance regional security and counter terrorism, separatism, and extremism. Pakistan has long been a victim of terrorism and has a vested interest in cooperating with other member states to address the threat. The SCO summit in Goa could provide an opportunity for Pakistan to deepen its partnerships with other member states in the areas of intelligence sharing, border security, and counterterrorism operations. Pakistan can also use the SCO platform to address security challenges arising from the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and promote regional stability.
In addition to economic and security cooperation, the SCO also provides a platform for cultural and people-to-people exchanges. The SCO has established a number of mechanisms for cultural and educational cooperation, including the SCO University, the SCO Cultural Cooperation Forum, and the SCO Youth Council. These mechanisms can provide opportunities for Pakistan to showcase its cultural diversity and heritage and promote cultural exchanges with other member states. The platform can be utilised to enhance its soft power and strengthen its image as a regional force committed to promoting peace, stability, and cooperation.
The SCO summit in Goa also presents an opportunity for Pakistan to engage with India. India and Pakistan have a complex relationship, marked by periodic tensions and conflict. After the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, bilateral relations between both the countries came to a stop but this summit and FM Bilawal Bhutto’s presence in Goa could prove to be in ice breaker.
Although Kashmir issue is of grave seriousness and has been the reason why both the countries are unable to normalise the relations, if a meeting has been arranged on the sides of summit, could be the first step towards the normalisation in the region.
The SCO provides a platform for both countries to engage in constructive dialogue and cooperation on issues of mutual interest. Pakistan can use the SCO summit to engage with India on economic and security issues, and explore opportunities for cooperation and dialogue.
In conclusion, the upcoming SCO summit in Goa presents a significant opportunity for Pakistan to engage with regional partners. The summit is an important milestone for Pakistan as a young member of the organization and provides a platform for the country to showcase its role as a regional power.