Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 120

The presidents signed a programmatic Declaration on the Establishment of the SCO and a Pact on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism. The document stipulates that the presidents are to hold regular annual summits, that the prime ministers are to meet twice a year, and that a Council of National Coordinators is to be established as a standing body under the supervision of the countries’ foreign affairs ministries. This council will draw up the SCO Charter for approval at next year’s summit. The SCO will admit new members by unanimous consent. This provision is already in effect informally and was the basis of the rejection of Pakistan’s request for observer status. Tajikistan vetoed Pakistan’s application last year within the Shanghai Forum, and Russia backed up the veto this year in the runup to the SCO’s summit.

The declaration not only disclaims hostile intent toward any country or group of countries, but also commits SCO members themselves to “not seek to attain unilateral military superiority in contiguous areas [to each other].” This stipulation, reflecting some mistrust among SCO members themselves, dovetails with Moscow’s tactic of fanning fear of Uzbekistan among the latter’s neighbors. These are concerned about some of Uzbekistan’s military and security measures occasionally spilling over poorly demarcated borders, and Moscow is using the opportunity as a propaganda tool, to portray Tashkent as the region’s potential bully.

The pact against “the three hostile forces”–Beijing’s shorthand for “terrorism, separatism and religious extremism”–attempts a general definition of those and purports to establish a legal basis for joint military and security countermeasures. It envisages the creation of an SCO Antiterrorism Center in Bishkek. There is no word as yet about how this center would relate to the CIS Collective Security Treaty’s Antiterrorism Center that is being established also in Bishkek. The latter looks mainly like a symbolic measure in any case (see the Monitor, May 31, June 5).

The six countries’ defense ministers issued a joint statement calling for the preservation of the 1972 ABM treaty and condemning in advance any breach of it. The statement targeted the American missile defense program, but stopped short of naming the United States. The ministers’ statement opposed also the creation of theater missile defense systems by groups of countries in the Asia-Pacific region–a reference to allies of the United States. Both the official level and the polemical content of this statement are lower, compared to last year’s joint statement by the heads of state on the same subject. This suggests that at least some of the Central Asian countries were unwilling to be drawn into the anti-American propaganda exercise. For its part, the permanently neutral Turkmenistan stays away from the SCO (Itar-Tass,, Interpress, Xinhua, Renmin Ribao, China Daily, June 15-18).