On August 16, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held its annual summit in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. This was the largest event to date for both Bishkek and the SCO, as the summit brought together official representatives of 12 countries. Energy cooperation and security issues were the summit’s main focus.
Participants included the presidents of the SCO’s six member states: Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, and Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
They were joined by high-ranking officials from the SCO’s observers: Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, Indian Minister of Oil and Gas Murli Deora, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar, and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov attended as distinguished guests. UN Under-Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe attended as well.
All participants expressed their satisfaction with the SCO’s development in the recent years and hoped that the organization will continue to further consolidate in the “Shanghai spirit.”
At the summit, Nazarbayev focused on energy cooperation, inviting the SCO’s observer states and distinguished guests to participate in the organization’s “energy club.” Raising another regional issue, Karzai called on the SCO member states to prioritize the fight against the drug economy.
Berdimukhamedov hopes that the prospect of the UN opening an office on preventive diplomacy in Ashgabat will allow Turkmenistan to actively cooperate with such nationally and regionally important organizations as the SCO.
Ahmadinejad showed his enthusiasm about participating in oil and gas projects with the SCO members, while Karimov pointed to the growing tensions among the SCO member states around water resources. He warned that the situation is prone to conflict.
Rakhmon proposed merging the SCO with the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, since the two organizations duplicate each other on several issues. Kasuri expressed Pakistan’s wish to join the SCO.
Putin was satisfied with the summit’s productivity and promised to invest $2 billion into Kyrgyzstan, while Hu’s speech was not translated from Chinese because the Kyrgyz side failed to provide an interpreter. Although Russian and Chinese are the SCO’s official languages, the organization’s members and guests are more familiar with the Russian language. Unfortunately Hu’s speech remained inaccessible to most of the summit’s participants.
Contrary to earlier expectations, none of the SCO member states raises the issue of the U.S. military base at Manas airport, near Bishkek. Instead, energy cooperation, terrorism, and inter-cultural cooperation were the summit’s central themes.
Today, the bulk of the SCO’s funds are spent on military training and organizing annual summits. Potentially, however, the SCO could reach out to countries that will meet its energy trade goals, as opposed to simply security concerns. The SCO does not have clear guidelines for accepting new members and observers, but its new focus on energy cooperation makes Turkmenistan the most probable next member. Both the SCO members and the Turkmen leader expressed interested in building closer ties. Prior to the summit, Bakiyev spoke with Hu about making Kyrgyzstan a transit country for Chinese-Turkmen prospective gas pipelines.
The SCO’s new focus on energy cooperation prioritizes it member states’ economic interests ahead of political concerns. Potential projects in gas, oil, and hydropower cooperation will likely addresses the interests of the SCO’s larger members — China, Russia, and Kazakhstan. The organization does not seem to be equally interested in dealing with the existing problems in the energy sector between its smaller member states such as Kyrgyzstan or addressing Tajikistan’s strained relations with Uzbekistan.
The summit adopted a “Bishkek Declaration” focusing on four main themes. First, member states agreed on the “strengthening of strategic stability, non-proliferation weapons of mass destruction” and preventing the use of weapons against “objects in the cosmic space.” Second, the declaration emphasized the importance of the struggle against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism. Third, Afghanistan’s drug trafficking received special attention, and the SCO agreed to foster the activity of a special Contact Group dealing with the narcotics industry in Afghanistan.
Lastly, the SCO member states agreed that energy cooperation is the basis for “sustainable economic growth and security.” The Bishkek Declaration postulates that a “reliable and mutually-beneficial partnership in various fields of the energy sector will be conducive to the provision of security and stability on the SCO territory, as well as in the global perspective.” The declaration specifies that energy dialogues will include producer, transit and consumer countries.
The summit endorsed a “Long-term Treaty of Good-neighborliness, Friendship, and Cooperation.” The treaty duplicates the existing treaties on “Eternal Friendship” adopted by the Central Asian states in the early 1990s. Central Asian leaders have often referred to the “Eternal Friendship” treaties at official meetings, however they proved ineffective when Uzbekistan decided to plant mines on its borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
As the summit ended, its members headed to Russia to observe military drills in Chelyabinsk. The SCO’s next summit will be held in Dushanbe in summer 2008; new members might be admitted then.
(24.kg, akipress.kg, kyrgyznews.kg, August 15-16)