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Afghanistan: A Need of Full Membership in SCO
Ajay Mohan
2016-09-02
Region : Asia, SouthAsia, Afghanistan,
Issue : Security, Terrorism,
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental organization where China, Russia and five Central Asian countries are permanent members. In 2012, Afghanistan became a formal observer of the SCO and after it the Afghan government and the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure signed a protocol on sharing information and collaborating on averting, identifying and eliminating terrorism. Afghanistan has officially petitioned the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for membership.
Afghanistan needs a full membership of SCO because it has very close relations with South and East Asia. Central Asia and South Asia, will reinforce the SCO's role in the international community, and enhance its leverage in regional affairs. The SCO could also play a constructive role in the peace process of Afghanistan. The base of the SCO is security and stability both things need Afghanistan now. When SCO establishing China was more conscious about the region these new five Central Asia nations (Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) because after disintegration of the Soviet Union. China can face biggest threat from this side because China already facing separatist problem from Xinjiang province. As a SCO secure the five Central Asian countries now it has an Afghanistan turn. But compared with the benefits Afghanistan can bring to the SCO, the challenges it transfers to the duties of the organization are more obvious. Afghanistan still faces complicated security issues, and suffers from backward development.
But in Afghanistan biggest-power rivalry playing the big role as a between India-Pakistan, India-China, US-China etc., as well as we can see the rivalry among the political groups also. At present five different relationships are most prominent: the relationship between President Ashraf Ghani's government and the Taliban, the relationship between Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, the relationship among different clans, the intra-clan relationship, and the relationships among the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the Haqqani network and all other militants.
Afghanistan has need more SCO membership compare to other country because other big powers like a India, China has bigger role in Afghanistan to provide stability and security somehow Pakistan also playing a big role in Afghanistan but it always in suspicion angle of Afghan leadership. Kunduz incident is a recent example of it.
India and China has biggest investor in Afghanistan among the SCO members and this process is continuing. In 2007, Russia has no substantial economic engagement with Afghanistan, though it has been providing security assistance to it. It remains a modest economic partner to Afghanistan and has little influence over the internal political processes in the country due to its bad experience in Afghanistan in 1979. The rest of the SCO countries—Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan remain fringe players in Afghanistan and hold no political or economic leverage in the country. Kazakhstan, by virtue of its better economy, has started to provide development assistance to Afghanistan. However, the Central Asian states mainly depend on the US-NATO, Russia, China, India and obviously Pakistan to decide their Afghan policies.
Even though there are economic and security ties between Afghanistan and the SCO states, a heightened SCO role looks unlikely in Afghanistan. Russia sees Afghanistan as part of its exclusive zone of influence. Russia’s bombing in Syria against ISIS, once again given a chance to Russia can move to Afghanistan in search of ISIS its possibility very high. But its main interest is to get the US-NATO out of this zone. The Russian mistrust of China’s dominance in the SCO is another factor why the organisation is unlikely to play an active role in Afghanistan. Since Russia deals with the Central Asian security issues through the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), it is unlikely that Russia will let the SCO play a role in Afghanistan more high profile than the CSTO after the US-NATO withdrawal. If in a worst case scenario, instability in Afghanistan spins out of control and affects the Central Asian states; the CSTO troops instead of the SCO—would be used to secure the Central Asian borders with Russia contributing maximum troops. This model has already been used during the Tajik civil war in 1992-97.
Contradictory Russia has cleared its stand in 2014, when it said that there was no role for the SCO in Afghanistan after the US-NATO withdrawal. But SCO can play effective role because of its members and its closeness. China is a very effective player in the region when China has met the Taliban leaders to secure its investments in Afghanistan from Taliban attacks and also to convey its security concerns in Xinjiang to the Taliban leadership. The Afghan Taliban leadership had visited China and held talks with its leadership in November 2014. China’s Foreign Minister said in his statement included Taliban among various political factions in Afghanistan, thereby implying that China gave recognition to Taliban as a political unit in Afghanistan. Russia, on the other hand, remains against talks with the Taliban and has scuttled a proposal by China to create a peace and reconciliation committee in Afghanistan to help bring the Taliban to the negotiation table. Hence, the divergent policies of the SCO’s two leading states regarding the Taliban are enough to show that the SCO is unlikely to play an active role in Afghanistan but this is unfortunate.
It’s true SCO’s lacks institutional mechanisms and financial capacity to increase its role in Afghanistan. Despite making noise about drug trafficking from Afghanistan and its security linkages for the Central Asian states, the SCO has not given any financial or other assistance to Afghanistan to tackle this problem. SCO’s area specialist argued that the financial backward of the SCO as one of the main reasons that would not let the Organisation play a big role in Afghanistan. Lack of political will and capacity mean that the SCO will not have a major and active role in Afghanistan. India and Pakistan both are observer nation of SCO they don’t have consensus in Afghanistan. Pakistan always neglect India’s role in Afghanistan recent India provided Mi-25 helicopters, Pakistan object this India’s help to Afghanistan.
However, it has some benefits to offer to Afghanistan. It provides Afghanistan a forum where it can cement its relations with India and other nations. It creates a channel of communication and cooperation where mutual interests can be harmonised. The SCO also facilitates Afghan re-integration into the regional economy which is very important for long-term development of the country. Though there are plans for expansion of the SCO in future to induct India and Pakistan as permanent members, this is unlikely to give an impetus to its activities in Afghanistan.
After the Taliban seized Kunduz late September, the international community became deeply worried about its resurgence. In addition, protests against the current government are also ramping up. Facing up to these pressures, Kabul intends to achieve certain political objectives by joining the SCO. The SCO's firm stance on anti-terrorism should help deter, at least psychologically, Afghanistan's domestic rebels. Afghanistan is able to draw more international support through the international organization. And Afghanistan can engage in more bilateral cooperation with other SCO members.
The SCO has been clear in its stance over the Afghan crisis. Since the US announced its decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the international community has put more faith in the SCO in boosting the peace and stability of Afghanistan. Before, Afghanistan is enrolled as an official member of the SCO. All SCO members believe that the resolution of the Afghan crisis is essential to regional peace and stability, they have different understandings about the severity of varying threats, making it hard to coordinate their actions.
But a problem is that SCO has limited capability in dealing with specific regional security issues. Afghanistan's participation will likely require the SCO to improve its ability to safeguard regional peace and stability, but it has no experience and limited capability in this regard. Given the fact that the US - NATO were not able to achieve what they expect in Afghanistan, it is hard to anticipate what the SCO can do.
Big-power rivalry hinders the peace process of Afghanistan, which demands concerted actions by all stakeholders. However, considering the sour relations between the US and Russia, Afghanistan will be reduced to being a tool for major-power rivalry. The security situation in Afghanistan is of central importance to overall regional security. As Richard Weitz said the SCO’s “future relevance will be determined by its ability to effectively address the continuing economic and security problems of neighbouring Afghanistan.” It is report that a large number of Central Asian militants - Uzbeks, Chechens, Tajiks and Kazakhs - fought alongside the Taliban.
These days we listen that ISIS expanding its presence. So that Afghanistan needs as much as SCO membership to prevent ISIS expansion because if Afghanistan will not stable and secure no one country can be stable either India, China, Russia or U.S.-NATO has huge interest in the region economically, strategically and of course security .Full membership of SCO would provide all assistance to Afghanistan in effective way to curb the so called three evils “Terrorism, Extremism and Separatism.
Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FORE INDIA

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