News / Asia

SCO Summit Shines Spotlight on Afghanistan

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, left, is escorted by officials as he walks out of an airplane upon his arrival in Beijing for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, June 5, 2012.Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, left, is escorted by officials as he walks out of an airplane upon his arrival in Beijing for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, June 5, 2012.
x
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, left, is escorted by officials as he walks out of an airplane upon his arrival in Beijing for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, June 5, 2012.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, left, is escorted by officials as he walks out of an airplane upon his arrival in Beijing for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, June 5, 2012.
VOA News
China and Afghanistan are expected to deepen ties when they sign a series of strategic agreements during this week's annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Set to begin Wednesday in Beijing, the SCO meeting will focus on membership expansion and more security and economic collaboration among the members, said Beijing's Foreign Ministry's spokesman Liu Weimin.  The current members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

"China is looking forward to outcomes including making the SCO a harmonious region," Liu said, adding that the organization will make a formal decision on accepting Afghanistan as an observer member state.

In previous statements, China and Russia have supported Afghanistan's admission, which in the words of a Chinese official "will help the SCO counter terrorism, separatism and extremism."

India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan already have observer status, which allows them to take part in sideline consultations during SCO meetings.
 
China is also expected to sign a series of strategic agreements that will raise its profile with Afghanistan, following a decade in which Beijing stayed largely on the sidelines of the U.S.-led war against the Taliban.

Raffaello Pantucci, an associate fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at London's King's College, said the shift is driven in part by U.S. plans to begin withdrawing combat forces from Afghanistan. "The realization slowly sinks in that the United States might be off in 2014," he said.

Pantucci said that by admitting Afghanistan as an observer, the SCO member states would be acknowledging the limits of the organization's ability to deal with terrorism in the region. "The SCO perceived that it has not done much, so this is a sort of visible statement saying, 'Yes, we recognize this and we will do more.'"   

Beijing regards the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a platform for its battle against separatism in the westernmost areas of the Xinjiang region.

In the decade since the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was established in 2001, member states have carried out various military and counterterrorism drills, and held regular meetings of foreign affairs, defense and law enforcement officials.

Chen Yurong, a researcher at a leading government think tank in Beijing, said regional stability is the main goal of the SCO but that its member nations mainly build ties through dialogue.

Many Chinese scholars see the organization as an example of "new regionalism," which China is championing as an alternative to what it perceives as Western hegemony.

"The SCO includes countries that, as it is, have no economic clout to speak of, yet they are equal," Chen said.

Some analysts regard the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a more fractured organization, with China and Russia competing for strategic primacy in the region.

Pantucci, who has been traveling in Central Asia and conducted research on Chinese interests and influence in the region, said he noticed a divide between Russia and China's aspirations for the group.

"I think we are beginning to see [from the Russian side] some sort of attempt to push back on the SCO and sort of what it means for Central Asia vis-a-vis Russia."

Pantucci explained that Russia is more interested in promoting organizations where Moscow takes the lead such as the Eurasian Union, an economic group proposed by Putin last fall.

"You are going to create an economic area, which borders with China and includes all the Central-Asian countries," said Pantucci. "This is going to have some serious implications for trade across the borders, because it will immediately erect quite high tariff barriers."

It is still unclear whether the Eurasian Union will be established and whether it will include China, as some Russian scholars have suggested.

Beijing, meanwhile, is expected to continue promoting the Shanghai Cooperation Organization regardless of Russia's stance.

"[The SCO] has done some baby steps in the direction of becoming a regional entity at least," Pantucci said, "but at the moment who has actually put money into this thing is actually the Chinese."

This year Turkey has applied to become a dialogue partner, while India, Pakistan and Iran have for some time been seeking full membership.  Iran's application has been denied because of ongoing sanctions levied on the country by the United Nations, while China and Russia have expressed different levels of support for India and Pakistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid