Remarks by the Foreign Minister: Meeting of the Council of SCO Foreign Ministers Dushanbe 13-14 July 2021
His Excellency, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Tajikistan
Mr. Sirojiddin Muhriddin,
Excellencies, Foreign Ministers of SCO Member States,
Mr. Vladimir Norov, SCO Secretary General,
Mr. Jumakhon Giyasov, Director Executive Committee, SCO-RATS
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be back in the picturesque city of Dushanbe for this important meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers. I thank my brother and friend, Foreign Minister Muhriddin for the warm and generous hospitality and excellent arrangements.
In this twentieth anniversary meeting, the SCO family can rightly draw satisfaction that the Organization has become a globally recognized and influential multilateral platform. With each passing year, SCO’s work, across diverse sectors, has synergized into a cohesive and mutually beneficial framework of cooperation for SCO member states.
I take this opportunity to commend Tajikistan as the present Chair for its dynamic leadership this year as well as the ongoing effective work of the permanent bodies. In this regard, I commend the work of the SCO Secretary General and the Director of Executive Committee of SCO-RATS.
Pakistan views the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a unique template for interstate relations within the Eurasian Heartland. It brings together nearly half of humanity (44% of global population) approximately a quarter of global GDP, and three-fifths of the total Eurasian territory. It thus possesses formidable political and economic potential. This is both our strength and our collective challenge. It is truly up to us, as member states, to harness this tremendous potential and channel it for uplifting our region and achieve shared goals of peace, security and prosperity.
As the Organization has grown in both strength and stature over the past two decades, there is a need to further strengthen the two permanent bodies. We welcome the candidature from Uzbekistan for the Director of Executive Committee of SCO-RATS and look forward to China’s nomination for the post of Secretary General. Pakistan also supports the new rotation cycle from 2022- 2039.
Over the past two decades, SCO’s voice in global affairs has attained distinct significance. At a time, when the world is bereft of global vision and shared solutions, SCO has called for effective multilateralism and has played its part as a pivotal coordinating Organization. This was amply demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the global public health system faced unprecedented pressure. SCO member states rose to counter this challenge, not only to meet their national needs, but also to lend a hand to friends, neighbors and the international community. To truly show how collective efforts can help address collective crisis, by deepening solidarity and institutional cooperation. I wish to especially commend China and Russia for their role in this once in a lifetime crisis.
While in many aspects we have turned a corner in tackling the pandemic, it is still not over. We now have to rebuild our economies and our ways of doing business in new and innovative ways; to come together, even if socially distanced. The challenges posed by rising poverty and the resultant inequality in the midst of a global economic slump calls for common approaches and solutions. I believe the SCO family led by shared principles of solidarity and mutual support, could be effective in combating the wide ranging effects of Covid-19.
The pandemic has also shown us the significant role played by technology and digitalization in amplifying the message and taking it to an ever widening audience. We believe these are the new frontiers for SCO member states in the post Covid-19 economic climate that we must proactively encourage within the SCO space. We, therefore, support initiatives such as e-commerce, digital economies, sharing of experiences and practices in innovation and new technologies.
Regional security continues to be challenged by the specter of terrorism. SCO has rightly identified terrorism amongst the gravest threats to our collective security, and appropriately made it one of the key planks of our multifaceted cooperation.
In the past two decades, SCO-led mechanisms have resulted in significant success in dealing with the common challenges of terrorism, separatism, extremism, illicit trafficking of drugs, as well as transnational organized crime. Pakistan is contributing in this endeavor through participation in Joint Border Exercises and Joint Anti-Terrorism Exercises as well as through collective action in the fight against narcotics and their precursors. While our work in the security domain continues, we are also confronted by the changing nature of international threats and terrorism brought about by technological advancement. Towards tackling these emerging threats, Pakistan appreciates SCO member states’ collaboration in information security and cyber crime domains.
While building capacity is important, we believe it is also essential to address the root causes of terrorism and extremism. Of equal concern for the maintenance of international peace and security is indiscriminate use of force in complete disregard to international humanitarian laws; unilateral approach to solve longstanding international disputes; ban on media, internet and state sponsored terrorism against people under illegal occupation. Such unilateral measures run counter to our shared objective of creating a regional environment of amity and cooperation and must be opposed at all cost.
As SCO members, we are bound together by the Shanghai spirit of cooperation and good neighborliness and have affirmed the centrality of the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security. The need to reform the UN Security Council through consensus, making it more representative, democratic, effective and accountable is not a matter of choice but an imperative.
Stability and peace in Afghanistan has an intimate bearing on regional security in the SCO space. As a shared responsibility, Pakistan has played its part in facilitating the peace process aimed at forging a comprehensive, broad based and inclusive, negotiated political solution that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.
The unfolding situation in the wake of withdrawal of US and NATO troops and in the absence of a peace deal is a matter of serious concern. The rise in violence in recent weeks has exacerbated an already volatile situation. A specter of chaos and escalated conflict looms large that would also give space to the ‘spoilers’ who wish to see the reign of instability in Afghanistan and the region. We call upon all Afghan parties to engage constructively and work for a negotiated political solution.
For its part, Pakistan has been and will always be a partner for peace. We stand ready to working with SCO member states in reinforcing efforts for sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan.
I look forward to an in-depth exchange of views on the situation in Afghanistan later today at the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group meeting.
SCO is a vital platform to forge closer ties with regional partners and to realize the potential of the emerging confluence between the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Eurasian Economic Union. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the flagship project of BRI, supplements SCO’s vision of regional connectivity and economic integration.
Pakistan believes that the key to unlock the geo-economic potential of SCO region lies in developing greater connectivity amongst member states. We are of the firm view that the collective vision of SCO will reach fruition through effective inter-SCO collaboration in connectivity and development of transport links through air, road and sea. However, we have noted a lack of progress in road development and transport connectivity initiatives. In advancing these proposals, we all need to transcend zero-sum perceptions and choose cooperation over confrontation.
Similarly, initiatives such as transition to national currencies and the SCO Development Fund and Bank dedicated to project financing are important for further growth and expansion of SCO as a whole. These initiatives would have far reaching consequences for the development of the SCO region and should be taken forward with a positive mindset.
With this in view, I would like to share some ideas that I believe would contribute towards achieving our shared vision of a prosperous and inter connected region:
First, SCO family needs to focus on collective economic development that intertwines with our national Sustainable
Development Goals. Our agencies dealing with achieving Sustainable Development Goals must meet at least once a year and share experiences and best practices in a spirit of cooperation and shared progress.
Second, in order to promote business partnerships, we need to create the necessary linkages between CEOs and entrepreneurs of SCO member states and offer them a mechanism to connect annually at the SCO CEOs Club. I would be happy to host its first meeting in Pakistan.
Third, empowerment of women in different walks of life is a shared objective within SCO. Contributing towards this goal, I would like to see SCO Women Entrepreneurs Forum established. A platform that brings together women in business/ trade/ and creative arts to forge a strong SCO identity.
Fourth, in a similar vein, I would like to propose, Women Parliamentarians Caucus from SCO countries. As representatives of the people, women parliamentarians offer a unique perspective and leadership style that adds value and depth to governance mechanisms.
It is my firm belief that relationships between countries and nations grow and deepen when the people of these countries connect over shared interests and common values. Towards fulfilling this ambition, Pakistan is committed to play its role.
I thank you!