Excellency, Mr. Narendra Modi, Chairman of the SCO Council of Heads of State,
Excellencies, Honorable Leaders of the SCO Member and Observer States,
Excellencies, the Secretary General of the UN, the Secretary General of the SCO and the Director of the Executive Committee of SCO-RATS,
Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Assalam-o-alaikum and a very Good Morning!
I am pleased to once again address this august gathering of SCO leaders. We thank India for its stewardship of the SCO this past year. We congratulate Kazakhstan on assuming the Chairmanship of SCO for 2023-24. My best wishes to my brother, H.E. Kassym Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan, as the incoming SCO Chairman. I am confident that under his sagacious leadership, the SCO will continue to grow from strength to strength.
Let me also congratulate my brother President Ebrahim Raisi, on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s accession to the SCO, as a full member. We warmly welcome you and are confident that Iran’s inclusion will immensely benefit the organization in all areas of its focus and attention. We also look forward to welcoming Belarus, another close friend of Pakistan, as a Full Member at the next Summit.
It also gives me immense pleasure to congratulate Bahrain, Kuwait, Maldives, Myanmar and the United Arab Emirates, on their accession as new Dialogue Partners.
For Pakistan, SCO is an organic and natural association of countries, which are bound together by historical, cultural, civilizational and geographical ties. Cooperation with SCO states, therefore, assumes a very high place in Pakistan’s roster of foreign policy priorities that seek enhanced connectivity and win-win regional cooperation.
It is, therefore, most reassuring to see the appeal and influence of SCO grow as with each passing year, more countries are vying to join the Organization, either as Dialogue Partner, Observer or Full Member.
We are meeting at a critical juncture in the history of our region and the world at large, where important developments are taking place, in the socio-economic and security spheres. In this era of global geo-political flux, the SCO has acquired added significance as a beacon of stability, security and progress. The fundamental values of “Shanghai Spirit” (equality, mutual trust, mutual advantage, shared development and respect for cultural diversity) are more relevant now than ever. They provide the basis for more inclusive, win-win cooperation as opposed to divisive, exclusionary zero-sum approaches.
The Shanghai Spirit, let me say, is in full alignment with Pakistan’s vision for a regional and global order, based on promoting peace, prosperity and shared development. The irreversible process of globalization and interdependence has taught us that our destinies are intertwined. The solution to our collective problems lies in working together for regional peace, stability and socio-economic development. You will find Pakistan a willing partner in all such endeavors.
Connectivity has become a defining feature of the modern global economy and is rightly hailed as a vehicle for peace and prosperity. Each year, SCO leaders underscore the importance of investing in connectivity capacities, for achieving our shared vision of an economically integrated region. Building efficient transport corridors and reliable supply chains are crucial elements of this shared vision. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative, can be a force multiplier not only for regional connectivity, but also for regional stability, peace and prosperity.
Pakistan’s location serves as a natural bridge connecting Europe and Central Asia with China, South Asia and Middle East. Special Economic Zones being set up under the CPEC framework have direct access to our ports, which can serve as convenient conduits for regional trade. We need to expand such initiatives across the SCO region, to open up new avenues for trade, investment, job creation and shared prosperity. To that end, Pakistan plans to host the SCO Conference on Transport Connectivity for Regional Prosperity in the last quarter of 2023.
Endowed with rich natural resources as well as immense technological potential, the SCO offers the perfect platform for enhanced intraregional trade. As SCO leaders, we must also give serious consideration to an alternative, independent development funding mechanism for regional initiatives.
The SCO member states have a shared interest in ensuring peace and stability in the region, which is a precondition for economic development. The hydra-headed monster of terrorism and extremism, whether performed by individuals, or societies and states must be fought with our full might. Any temptation to use it as a cudgel for diplomatic point scoring must be eschewed. Instead of cherry picking for narrow political gains, terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state terrorism, must be condemned in clear and unambiguous terms. There can be no justification for the killing of innocent people, regardless of the cause or pretext. Similarly, religious minorities should never be demonized in the pursuit of domestic political agendas.
While the sacrifices made by Pakistan in fighting terrorism are without parallel in the SCO region, this scourge continues to plague our region and remains a serious obstacle to the maintenance of peace and stability. SCO countries must take concerted actions, both in their national capacities and collectively, under the framework of SCO-RATS to combat the three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism. For its part, Pakistan fully supports measures to enhance the effectiveness of the SCO RATS mechanism.
The achievement of lasting peace and security in the region, is both a common concern as well as a responsibility of all SCO leaders. Stability in Afghanistan is critical for achieving this common objective. The international community currently finds itself in a ‘standstill’ with Afghanistan. The ‘cascade’ of unmet expectations has meant that critical support needed by Afghanistan to stave-off a grave humanitarian crisis, prevent an economic meltdown and to combat terrorism, has been withheld. This policy needs an urgent reset; the international community should meaningfully engage with the Interim Afghan Government to take next steps.
We need a ‘balanced’ approach, based on simultaneous commitments from both sides. A spirit of solidarity and cooperation should underpin international engagement with Afghanistan. Similarly, the Interim Afghan Government must also take concrete measures to ensure its soil is not used for terrorism by any entity. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan will not only bring economic dividends to the Afghan people but would also unlock the true economic potential of the SCO region, as well as contribute to global peace and security. The SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group has an important role to play in providing a platform for practical cooperation. Differences in approaches towards this common objective can be bridged through consultations and better understanding on the SCO platform.
Climate chaos is knocking on our doors, every moment. It is real, devastating and affects everyone living on this planet, in varying degrees. Being a global crisis that threatens humanity’s survival, Climate Change demands global solidarity and a global response. It’s time to act – and we must act now.
Pakistan has witnessed the ravages of climate change first hand through last year’s floods that took over a 1,000 precious lives and destroyed thousands of livelihoods.
Pakistan is committed to working for a sustainable and nature positive world, that we owe to our future generations. We must also ensure that developed countries deliver on their commitments, to provide enhanced and predictable support to developing countries in mitigating and adapting to the effects of Climate Change.
Poverty alleviation remains a pressing issue for SCO member-states. The heightened military tensions across the globe and unprecedented hike in energy and food prices, coupled with economic recession in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic, have taken a heavy toll on our efforts to address this challenge in our societies. The presence of the largest number of poor people on the planet within SCO borders, obliges us to have closer cooperation for poverty alleviation.
I would like to thank and congratulate the SCO States on establishing the Special Working Group on Poverty Alleviation that was proposed by Pakistan. With the adoption of its regulations, this Working Group has become operational and will provide an impetus to our collective endeavors to eliminate poverty and improve the living standards of our people.
Over the past 20 years, we have built a strong foundation for SCO’s development cooperation matrix. However, there is a growing realization that a gap exists between the Organization’s aspirations and performance; between the raft of Agreements and MoUs we have signed and their implementation. It is time we translate our political will into actions on the ground.
Pakistan strongly believes that a strengthened and effective SCO can spearhead sustainable development in the region. We, therefore, support the ongoing efforts to reform and modernize the SCO. As part of this reform process, we must include English as the third official language, which will significantly improve the meaningful participation of English speaking members.
Peace in the context of contemporary inter-state relations could be negative or positive. The “negative peace” refers to absence of violence but persistence of the conflict’s root causes. Meanwhile, the “positive peace’ connotes a situation where underlying causes of a conflict are addressed, leading to justice and equity for all. We must strive for establishing positive peace in the SCO region.
To achieve that goal, the fundamental rights and freedoms must be guaranteed to all, including those under occupation. Peace and communal harmony should replace violent ultra-nationalism and xenophobic ideologies, especially Islamophobia.
Furthermore, we should resolutely oppose divisive policies, based on prejudice and discrimination. In today’s world, there should be no place for the willful provocations and incitement to hatred, especially on religious grounds.
The SCO stands for strict observance of the UN principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and people’s right to self-determination. We must ensure respect for these universally-recognized principles within the SCO geography, for friendly relations among the nations and for the resolution of outstanding disputes. The UN Security Council resolutions offer us a workable framework for resolution of some long-standing disputes in the region. We must build a new future for our people, based on peaceful co-existence and conflict resolution.
With more than 40 percent of the world’s population and almost a quarter of the world’s GDP, the SCO represents the future. And it can be a glorious future – if only we can work together to seize it. To this end, I reaffirm, Pakistan’s unwavering support and commitment to address our shared challenges and to realize our dreams of peace, prosperity, stability and enhanced connectivity of the SCO region.
Last modified: July 4, 2023
Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world.