The SCO clout

THE high level of interest both prior to and after the sixth annual Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit held recently just outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek is a fitting reflection of the growing regional clout of the Beijing-Moscow initiative.

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Published: Wed 22 Aug 2007, 8:46 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:52 AM

And just as the summit was followed by ‘counter-terrorism’ military exercises by a 6,000 strong contingent of SCO troops, again predominantly Chinese and Russian, the debate on the other side of the Atlantic should focus not on containment of an undesirable alliance, but rather on methods of purposeful engagement following formal welcome. Interestingly, sections of the Western Press have already raised such issues.

Indeed, the very thought of Moscow and Beijing entering into binding, long-term associations and rallying along regional states would have raised high-level American eyebrows much more seriously not too long ago, and with good reason. But since the bloc’s main thrust revolves around counter-terrorism and energy issues, the West should have little reason not to welcome, much rather oppose it.

The most serious development from the summit was President Putin’s call for an “energy club” to “share and develop energy resources among SCO members”. Rich in gas, the region is the energy hub of the future, a reality Putin has been looking to exploit for some time now, carefully moving pieces on the geo-political chessboard with the finesse of a grandmaster.

So, acknowledging and welcoming the SCO clout would indeed serve as a rare foreign policy plus for Washington whose own short sighted initiatives have contributed in no small manner to increased Russian and Chinese self-confidence. Firmly caught in the war-on-terror quagmire, Washington is simply in no position to lock horns on any more fronts. And with the energy bound to bolster Turkmenistan’s membership case, slightly rough times may lie ahead since the precedent would quickly move other observer states, Mongolia, Pakistan, India and indeed Iran to apply for full membership. All the more reason for the US to act quickly, and in a manner that implies smooth cooperation not needless irritation.

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