By Prasoon Sharma
In his remarks delivered at the 2015-18 summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Chinese President Xi Jinping called on SCO members to uphold the Shanghai Spirit, embrace openness and enhance cooperation in various fields.
The following are memorable quotes from Xi's speeches.
UPHOLDING SHANGHAI SPIRIT
At the 2018 SCO summit President Xi Jinping said "the Shanghai Spirit, transcending outdated concepts such as clash of civilizations, Cold War and zero-sum mentality, has opened a new page in the history of international relations and gained increasing endorsement of the international community."
Speaking at the 17th Meeting of the Council of Heads of States of the SCO in Astana, Kazakhstan in 2017, Xi said: "Firmly committed to the Shanghai Spirit, SCO member states are making solid progress on the road of building a community of shared future, thus establishing a fine example of the new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation."
Speaking at the 16th Meeting of the Council of Heads of States of the SCO in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in 2016, Xi praised the first of the achievements is that the SCO has advocated and put into practice the Shanghai Spirit, which features mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and pursuit of common development, said the Chinese president.
Speaking at the 15th Meeting of Council of Heads of States of the SCO in Ufa, Russia in 2015, Xi said: "Featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respecting diverse civilizations and seeking common development, the Shanghai Spirit has over the past 15 years underpinned the SCO's development and represents the trend in contemporary international relations."
The SCO is a Eurasian platform for political, economic, and security cooperation among member nations. At present, world is facing disruption and uncertainty in all these domains. As examples, there is political turmoil between US & Russia and US & Iran, which has been threatening global political stability. A potential US-China trade spat and the US inclination towards anti-globalization has posed challenges to the world economy and especially to the world's two fastest growing major economies i.e. India and China. The world is facing severe terrorism and extremism threats from organizations like ISIS.
In 2018 SCO summit President Xi Jinping said "We should promote open and inclusive cooperation for win-win outcomes. We should reject self-centered, short-sighted and closed-door policies. We should uphold WTO rules and support the multilateral trading system so as to build an open world economy."
"Openness has been a defining feature of the SCO since its inception. China supports the SCO in carrying out cooperation of various forms and in a broad range of areas with its observer states and dialogue partners as well as other countries, and in further reviewing the applications from the related countries for legal status in the SCO in accordance with its regulations and the principle of consensus," said Xi at the 2017 summit.
In 2016, Xi said: "Members of the SCO should remain open and transparent without targeting any third party, engage all like-minded international partners in wide-ranging cooperation and act as a constructive force for the healthy development of the international order," said the Chinese leader.
In 2015, Xi said: "We should uphold international equity and justice, promote multilateralism and openness, respect each other's interests, refrain from interfering in other country's internal affairs, settle disputes through peaceful means and seek common development and prosperity with a win-win approach."
China has already built 21 economic and trade cooperation zones. The SCO should achieve the target of completing SCO Free trade Agreement by 2020. India's pending energy projects like the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline, IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline, and CASA (Central Asia-South Asia)-1000 electricity transmission projects can get a much-needed push through the SCO, which involves both India and Pakistan.
Beyond this, the most important aspect of embracing openness is connectivity. The International Union of Railways (UIC) had ranked India as 4th and China as the 2nd largest rail network in the world. Both railway networks should come together to connect 42% of global population residing in SCO countries.
China-India should create separate platforms to resolve all the issues and concerns related to the Belt and road initiative (BRI). And both countries should create synergy in their connectivity projects.
ENHANCING SECURITY AND OTHER COOPERATION
In 2018 SCO summit President Xi Jinping said "We should pursue common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. We should reject the Cold War mentality and confrontation between blocks and oppose the practices of seeking absolute security of oneself at the expense of others. This is a sure way to achieve security of all."
At the 2017 meeting, Xi said: "At present, the international and regional situation is undergoing profound and complex changes. Destabilizing factors and uncertainties are on the rise. Only through cooperation can countries properly meet threats and challenges. China is willing to work together with all parties to strengthen the sense of community with a shared future, and build a common home of security, stability, development and prosperity."
In 2015, Xi said: "Upholding security and stability in our region is a common concern for all member states. The SCO has the responsibility to prevent instability, forestall the spread of terrorist and religious extremist ideologies and stop forces with hidden agenda from undermining peace and stability in our region."
As per reports, ISIS posts around 90,000 items daily on various social media platform to influence, recruit, and create terror. The Chinese Internet Plus and Digital India plan should work together to help other SCO members to counter cyber terrorism.
The most important strategy to fight against these terror groups is to provide employment to young people so that they don't become drawn-in by these extremist groups. As such, an Asian Silicon Valley, an idea discussed during an India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue, should be extended to other SCO countries. This will provide an eco-system to the youth of SCO countries to think about positive ideas, convert these ideas to commercially viable products and services and contribute to the growth of whole region and world.
As for the potential benefits, India can gain from SCO's Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) – manned by 30 professionals analysing key intelligence inputs on the movements of terror outfits, drug-trafficking, cyber security threats and public information in the region that we in India know little about. Likewise, participation in SCO's counter-terror exercises and military drills could be beneficial to the Indian armed forces.
(Prasoon Sharma is Director- India Global Centre for Chinese studies. He represented India at various forums like India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue in 2016 & 2018, BRICS summit etc.)