New architecture for the space of Eurasia
Tashkent hosts summit of heads of Shanghai Co-operation Organisation member states — the first SCO summit to be attended by Belarus at top level in its new status as observer
The President of Belarus has taken part in the summit, informing colleagues of Minsk’s vision for joint work. A year ago, our country gained observer status within this international structure. Speaking from summit podium, Mr. Lukashenko noted Belarus’ aspiration to take an active role in the work of the organisation, settling global and regional issues.
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and PRC Chairman Xi Jinping
Belarus’ sincere friends are members of this integration structure, founded in 2001. At present, six countries are state members: Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, six countries have observer status: Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan. In July 2015, heads of SCO states decided, during the Ufa summit, to launch India and Pakistan’s application to join the SCO as full members. Iran has similar plans.
Six countries are SCO dialogue partners: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka.
Initially, the SCO focused primarily on inter-regional activities, aiming to suppress terrorism, separatism and extremism in Central Asia. In the course of its development, the organisation has supplemented issues of security with economic aspects, including those relating to power engineering, transport, agribusiness, telecommunications, and humanitarian interaction. Its member states are also actively interacting in sci-tech, cultural, educational and tourist spheres.
According to the President of Belarus, economic co-operation should be a central theme of SCO interaction. He states, “The SCO has huge economic potential, and the accession of such countries as India and Pakistan will enhance this potential even further.”
Belarus shares the SCO’s approach to international security. “You’re well aware of the peace-loving and multi-vector foreign policy of Belarus, which aims to preserve stability and peace in our region,” asserted the President. “Today, as instability escalates and the number of regional conflicts is on the rise, the unity of states and their resolution to join efforts in addressing global issues are especially important.”
The Belarusian Head of State is convinced that the SCO is a crucial negotiating platform for working out mechanisms of response to modern challenges and threats. “It’s especially important to join efforts to eradicate any manifestation of terrorism, extremism, organised crime, or drug trafficking, while preventing emergencies and conflicts,” underlined Mr. Lukashenko.
During the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation Summit in Tashkent
Co-operation with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) should be a priority for SCO economic policy, noted the President of Belarus. “Yet, this theme is yet to be outlined within the SCO,” explained Mr. Lukashenko. In his words, the parties have many areas of common interest, and Belarus supports the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping. “Via the Chinese-Belarusian Great Stone Industrial Park, we’re demonstrating our readiness to become a key actor in this grand plan,” asserted the Belarusian Head of State.
With its great industrial, scientific and innovative potential, Belarus has the opportunity to take part in mutually beneficial infrastructure projects currently being implemented or soon to be implemented via the SCO platform, including in the areas of transport, logistics and energy. “Holding leading positions in ensuring food security, we’re ready to share our practices,” said the President. “Our country is fully open to co-operation in the areas of industry, science, education, tourism and humanitarian works.”
Mr. Lukashenko expressed confidence that this potential will be utilised to maximum effect within SCO projects.
A multi-lateral summit is always an ideal venue for holding bilateral meetings. The first of such meetings took place between the President of Belarus and the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping. It was Beijing’s support that helped Minsk receive its observer status. Mr. Lukashenko thanked the Chinese President for this, assuring him that Belarus is fully ready to reinforce its relations with the PRC and the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation. “We’re ready to be the ‘western gates’ of this organisation,” explained the President.
Mr. Jinping thanked Mr. Lukashenko for successfully conducting the 5th Belarusian People’s Congress, saying, “I’m confident that, under your guidance, Belarus will attain new successes.” He then invited Mr. Lukashenko to travel to China on a state visit.
During his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi, Mr. Lukashenko said that Belarus-India relations need additional impetus. Economic targets of co-operation were determined during the visit to Minsk by the Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee, last June: to reach $1bn of trade turnover.
“To achieve this $1bn, we need to create an economic ‘roadmap’,” proposed Mr. Lukashenko; Narendra Damodardas Modi met this proposal with great interest.
The President of Belarus has called for economic co-operation as the mainstream of interaction for SCO member states. This is logical. Moreover, SCO member states, observers and dialogue partners unite around 45 percent of the planet’s population.
Minsk is keen to implement a whole range of joint major projects, such as the establishment of a SCO financial institute, to facilitate the creation of a mechanism of mutual settlements between countries in their national currencies.
From the speech of the President of Belarus at the SCO Heads of State Summit:
Belarus attaches great political and economic significance to co-operation with the Asian region. We fully support the development of a new architecture of relations in Eurasia, taking into account the interests of all states on the continent.
As an observer country with the SCO, we aren’t going to watch the game from the substitutes’ bench. Belarus is ready to become an active ‘field player’ within the organisation, making a considerable contribution to its work, for the benefit of our people.
By Vladimir Velikhov