PM proposes eight-pronged ‘course of action’ for SCO

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Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday proposed an eight-pronged course of action for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, calling for a peaceful co-existence, regional trade, soft and infrastructure connectivity and a framework against corruption and white collar crimes among the member states.

Addressing the 19th meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State in Bishkek, the prime minister suggested the reinforcement of the SCO’s vision of cooperation, rejecting the confrontation and to advance the imperatives of peaceful co-existence at the regional and international levels.

At the invitation of Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, the prime minister attended the summit besides leaders from member countries including China, Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Moreover, the leaders from SCO Observer countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus and Mongolia also attended the event. Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov chaired the meeting held in both narrow and extended formats.

In his address, the prime minister called for galvanising the ‘Shanghai Spirit’ to strengthen SCO’s core mandate of mitigating the risks of conflict, fostering confidence and promoting stability. He emphasized upon the early finalization of arrangements for trade in local currencies and set up SCO Fund and SCO Development Bank to catalyse the trans-regional development agenda.

He said the SCO states must synergise the various region-wide connectivity initiatives and work on complementing infrastructure connectivity with soft connectivity, including digital, cultural, touristic and academic. He also proposed setting up of SCO Culture and Tourism Corridors, clustering multiple SCO destinations into a single package.

Calling for making SCO more relevant to the daily lives of citizens by promoting food security and enhancing cooperation in health and humanitarian sectors, he asked the organisation to take the lead role in establishing a comprehensive framework for combating corruption and white collar crime to prevent the laundering of billions of dollars through offshore accounts. He stressed upon prioritising women and youth empowerment by focusing on strengthening the Women Forum and the Youth Council and mandating them to promote gender mainstreaming, skills acquisition and jobs mobility.

Imran Khan also called for bridging the gap between region-specific research and policy by launching feasibility studies for creating SCO centres of excellence on poverty alleviation, de-radicalisation, connectivity, and new technologies.

Terming Kyrgyz republic as pearl of SCO region for its natural beauty and rich traditions, the prime minister thanked the Kyrgyz leadership for gracious hospitality and congratulated the country for its excellent stewardship of SCO since the historic Qingdao Summit in China last year.

He said as the Russian Federation takes the baton as next SCO chair, Pakistan is confident that the Organisation’s onward march would continue apace. He said though Pakistan is new to SCO, it has historic ties with the nations and countries represented in the summit.

The prime minister told the summit that Pakistan provides the vital connectivity between the Middle East and China and Central and South Asia. He said Pakistan is an attractive investment destination and a large market, endowed with a rich array of resources and its predominantly young population is imbued with immense energy and creativity. Pakistan’s other endowments include a vast pool of skilled human resource, a large agrarian base, tremendous tourism potential, diverse mineral wealth and a developed IT infrastructure.

He told the regional leaders that Pakistan’s foreign policy outlook is anchored on the inextricable link between peace and development. “We build partnerships based on mutual respect, sovereign equality and equal benefit,” he remarked.

Imran Khan said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of President Xi’s far-sighted Belt and Road Initiative, is fast reaching fruition. Gwadar Port, at its southern end, marks the only point of convergence of the maritime belt and the overland road, he added.

He said during his visit to China in April, Pakistan and China launched the next phase of CPEC, and concluded an upgraded Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement. In time, CPEC is destined to catalyse the creation of an integrated pan-Asian sphere of shared prosperity, he added. “The world stands at a crossroads. For the first time in ages, we are seeing the advent of a multi-polar global order. Epicentres of economic power and growth momentum are shifting eastwards. Regional integration is speeding up. Disruptive technologies are maturing,” he remarked.

He said the threats, from terrorism to climate change to narcotics to bacterial resistance, continue to loom large and there are increasing barriers to open trade and innovation. He said the growing intolerance and Islamophobia are threatening to accentuate religious faultlines. “For its part, Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state terrorism against people under illegal occupation,” he said.

The prime minister said Pakistan is among the few countries to have successfully turned the tide against terrorism and it is ready to share its experience and expertise in counter terrorism. The country will also remain actively engaged in SCO’s counter-terrorism initiatives, he added.

He told the summit that there is finally a realisation that the conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution. Pakistan is fully supporting the efforts for peace and reconciliation, through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process, he said, and appreciated the positive contributions being made by China, Russia and Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours. He underscored that SCO’s support for post-conflict Afghanistan will remain crucial.

Imran Khan said South Asia continues to be challenged by common enemies, including poverty, illiteracy, disease and under development. “Enduring peace and prosperity in South Asia will remain elusive until the main dynamics in South Asia is shifted from confrontation to cooperation. It is important to seize the opportunities for peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes and collective endeavours for regional prosperity,” he said.

Terming the evolving situation in the Gulf and Middle East as a matter of concern, the prime minister urged the parties to exercise restraint, take steps to de-escalate the situation, and find solutions through diplomatic means. He said being a sportsman, he always considers the playground to be a remarkable teacher. On the turf of international politics, he said there is an opening for SCO to play its role in framing a brave new world. “We have every resource, and every reason, to turn our dreams into reality. A far-reaching vision, strength of will, ownership, and synergy in our efforts will help us in successfully achieving this transformation,” he concluded.