Ambassador Bakhtiyor Saidov
The 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit is set for June 9-10 in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province. Before the summit, Beijing Review conducted an exclusive interview with Uzbek Ambassador to China Bakhtiyor Saidov, who shared his views on the development of the SCO and the future prospects for the regional cooperation organization. An edited excerpt of the interview follows:
Beijing Review: As a founding member of the SCO, how does Uzbekistan see the SCO's development and contribution to regional peace and prosperity over the past 20 years?
Bakhtiyor Saidov: Since its founding almost 20 years ago, the SCO has developed into an authoritative regional organization and an effective and open multilateral cooperation platform. One of the key factors for the success of the organization is that it has adapted to the complicated and continually changing world situation, and has skillfully integrated the overall interests of member states in the fields of both security and economic development.
Since its establishment, the SCO has firmly adhered to the Shanghai Spirit, placing great emphasis on amity and unity among member states and effectively coping with challenges that threaten regional security.
As a founding member of the SCO, Uzbekistan has actively participated in all forms of the organization's activities and has made important contributions to its development. Uzbekistan will further expand trade and investment cooperation with other member states and make efforts to facilitate trade cooperation within the SCO.
We firmly support conducting open, equal and mutually beneficial cooperative dialogue with all our partners. On the principle of common interests, we are willing to show our sincerity in reaching effective cooperation by making reasonable concessions.
At present, all parties of the SCO are actively preparing for the Qingdao Summit. The action on preventing youth from being influenced by terrorism and other radical ideologies proposed by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during the Astana Summit last year is on the agenda of the upcoming summit. It is set to be approved by the SCO Heads of State Council Meeting this year.
A train stops at the entrance to the 19.2-km long Qamchiq Tunnel in Uzbekistan, which is completed on February 27, 2016, as part of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway XINHUA
From the perspective of Uzbekistan, what is the SCO's greatest achievement to date? What does Uzbekistan anticipate for the future of the SCO?
As I mentioned above, the role and influence of the SCO have been on the rise year after year, both regionally and globally. It has already become an important force that can exert great influence on international relations. The continually increasing number of SCO member states, observer states and dialogue partners all attests to that fact.
Following the existing tradition, Uzbekistan firmly supports and strictly observes the cooperation principle that conforms to the interests of all member states, helping to continually raise the SCO's profile on the world stage.
As everyone knows, Uzbekistan has strictly followed the targets, missions and principles stipulated in the SCO Charter which are all aimed at safeguarding regional security and stability. Their purpose is also to raise the social and economic development level of member states as well as the international profile of the SCO. What's more, my country attaches particular importance to the principles of non-confrontation, non-blockade and openness of the SCO.
We will continue to strengthen economic and trade cooperation with other member states and carry out a variety of large-scale projects together. This is of great significance under the cooperation framework of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China. Thus, the prime task for pragmatic cooperation is to further strengthen economic cooperation with more confidence. Firstly, we should jointly draw up plans and carry out large-scale investment cooperation projects in the fields of transportation infrastructure, hi-tech manufacturing, the service industry and tourism.
What should be stressed is that to safeguard regional development, it is of great importance to establish a multilateral financial mechanism. Thus, in my opinion, it is the right time to establish an SCO development bank.
In expanding regional cooperation, Uzbekistan believes that it is necessary to jointly develop transportation corridors, which can help connect Central Asian countries with international markets. In this respect, it is important for the SCO to establish an integrated transnational transportation management system among member states. We need to formulate a legal framework, simplify customs procedures, set a unified one-stop transport expense rate and modernize and standardize cargo and passenger security checks.
In addition, SCO member states should pay more attention to cooperation in transportation and communication projects. Tapping into the full potential of the existing trans-border transportation capacity should be a top priority. We believe speeding up the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway is a shortcut for connecting Central Asian member states to international markets.
Last year, the SCO welcomed two new members, India and Pakistan. What are your views on the expansion of SCO membership and how will these new members shape the future of the organization?
The SCO is rapidly and steadily becoming one of the most influential organizations worldwide. Against the backdrop of the intensification of regional conflicts, the SCO, which represents the harmonious and peaceful coexistence of about half of the world's population, is of special social value.
The year 2016 was a milestone for the SCO as heads of state made the historic decision to enlarge the organization at the Tashkent Summit by passing related memoranda. As we all know, after the approval of these documents, India and Pakistan formally joined the group last year. We believe the addition of India and Pakistan will further promote the development of the organization and garner more attention from the SCO on problems in Central Asia.
In your opinion, how can the Belt and Road Initiative and the SCO's framework for cooperation complement each other?
Since the moment President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, Uzbekistan has been showing support for this initiative which aims to promote common development. The initiative has both a clear roadmap and concrete development plans.
What should be pointed out is that the friendly relationship between the Uzbek and Chinese people is closely connected by the ancient Silk Road. This route links China's ancient capital of Xi'an with the Uzbek city of Samarkand, eventually reaching Damascus and Rome, through which goods from different countries were traded worldwide.
We believe the construction of the Belt and Road together with the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman International Transport Corridor is conducive to the building of the shortest and safest transportation route among China, Central Asia and the Middle East. Thus, we hope to resolve the related problems over the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway as soon as possible.
We also believe the advancement of the Belt and Road Initiative will create opportunities for the implementation of effective domestic transportation and cross-border transportation corridor projects to increase freight volume, expand railway and highway networks, and upgrade aviation and telecommunication cooperation. This will create a good foundation for our region to build a global transnational transportation and logistics center.
During our president's official visit to China last May, the two governments signed a motor carrier transportation agreement. It is not only a concrete step in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, but also provides a good opportunity to achieve the shortest highway transport route between the two countries. In the meantime, it also helps maximize the transport and trade potential within the SCO.
We firmly believe the outcome of the upcoming SCO Qingdao Summit, the first since its expansion, will be of great significance for further strengthening mutually beneficial multilateral cooperation.
I want to take the opportunity to wish the Qingdao Summit great success.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org