Ambassador Masood Khalid
Last June, Pakistan officially joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). As a new member of the SCO, what kind of role will Pakistan play and what are the views in the country on the future prospects of the organization? Before the 18th SCO Summit to be held on June 9-10 in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, Pakistani Ambassador to China Masood Khalid shared his insight on these questions in an exclusive interview with Beijing Review. An edited excerpt of the interview follows:
Beijing Review: Pakistan became a member of the Shanghai Cooperation organization (SCO) last year. How can Pakistan benefit from joining the group? What kind of role can Pakistan play in the organization?
Masood Khalid: Pakistan had been an observer of the SCO since 2005. In 2017 at the Astana Summit, Pakistan became a member.
Cooperation in the SCO focuses on issues of security, politics, economy and culture. Pakistan has been playing a constructive role in all these areas since its observer membership and has been regularly attending the events held by the organization.
As you are aware, Pakistan has been at the frontline of the fight against terrorism. During the war on terror, we have suffered greatly in terms of both human and economic loss. Our experience in counter-terrorism operations can be shared with the SCO community so as to improve the security situation in our region.
Pakistan is at the confluence of Southwest Asia, the Middle East and South Asia. We can connect 86 percent of the world's population through enhanced connectivity and improved transportation links.
Pakistan is also a culturally rich country. We have strong culture and common heritage links with SCO member states and can cooperate in the promotion of SCO culture in the region and the world at large.
The organization is home to approximately half of the world's population. Pakistan's membership in the SCO has provided it with a platform to interact more closely with Central Asian states and Russia. Of course, with China we have traditionally had an all-weather, strategic, cooperative partnership. Cooperating with this region will benefit Pakistan's security, accelerate its economic growth, enhance its connectivity and promote its people-to-people ties with the region.
A container vessel docks at the Gwadar Port in Pakistan on March 28. As one of key projects under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, the port plays a significant role in promoting Pakistan's economic development XINHUA
What kind of role does Pakistan expect the SCO to play in the future of regional security?
It should be very clear that the SCO is not opposed to any country or organization. The SCO has achieved significant milestones in promoting regional peace and security since its inception in 2001. The regional anti-terrorist structure of the SCO has played an important part in improving the overall security environment of the region. In the field of security, terrorism poses a serious challenge. Terrorism has mutated, both in form and in terms of the tools at the disposal of terrorists. We need to address both symptoms and root causes of this security threat and focus our efforts.
The Afghan contact group is another important step toward improving the peace and security of the region. By helping Afghanistan in an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, SCO member states are contributing to the improvement of the overall security environment.
The mechanisms of the Council of Ministers of Defense and Secretaries of National Security of SCO Member States are helpful in synergizing our efforts. The Peace Mission exercises and other platforms of military-to-military interaction will improve the capabilities of law enforcement agencies in tackling traditional and non-traditional threats to peace and security.
Flag of Pakistan is raised at an SCO agency in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on June 15, 2017 after the country was given full SCO membership XINHUA
Under the framework of the SCO, in which fields should cooperation between member states be further strengthened?
All four areas of cooperation under the SCO are vital and interconnected. The first and foremost area of importance, however, is security.
We should also keep in mind that poverty breeds violence whereas development and prosperity promote peace and harmony. Economic development and interconnectedness have proven an effective tool in addressing security threats.
In order to improve the living standards of our people, there is a dire need to promote cooperation in the economic field. SCO member states need to promote regional connectivity initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative. There should be concerted efforts for the establishment of a fair and rational international political and economic order upholding the goals and principles of the UN Charter.
People-to-people cooperation is another area where significant potential for cooperation exists. Promoting intra-SCO tourism will help the peoples of the region understand each other better and create more job opportunities.
Now that both Pakistan and India are SCO members, can this help narrow the differences and improve bilateral relations between the two countries?
Pakistan and India joined the SCO at the same time last year. We follow the Shanghai Spirit of cooperation and building trust. This has been the guiding principle of Pakistan's foreign policy, which also guides us in the SCO. Pakistan has consistently advocated dialogue and peaceful means for conflict resolution between states. The same principle applies as far as Pakistan's relations with India are concerned.
Copyedited by Laurence Coulton
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