17 june 2019

Central Asia news

Russia: SCO Summit Promises to be "Afghani"

15.06.2009 11:36 msk

Vremya Novostei

Politics Russia

The heads of states comprising the Shanghai Cooperation Organization converge on Yekaterinburg for another, two-day, summit. The presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are coming from Moscow where they attended a meeting of the CIS Collective Security Council, yesterday. Chairman Hu Jintao is expected from Beijing. When the summit is over, Jintao will make a visit to Moscow, too.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will be the central celebrity in Yekaterinburg. He is going to the Urals at the very onset of his second term of office (he was re-elected on June 12). Not even that, however, will help Ahmadinejad finagle full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization for Iran. Its application for full membership is not on the agenda. Together with Mongolia, India, and Pakistan, Iran will remain an observer. Sources from the summit steering committee explained that the ban on expansion of the organization imposed several years ago remained in force.

The commission for criteria for prospective members in the meantime will continue its work. This commission was set up at the Dushanbe summit in 2008. It met on three occasions and drew the first draft of a provision on expansion. The document was forwarded to all six capitals of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In any event, the work of the commission is far from being over.

Organization members disagree over what is to be regarded as the region of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Either the territory of all member states from Sakhalin and the South China Sea and to Kaliningrad and Vyborg, or the same space with adjacent territories... In this case, however, Iran does not stand a chance of meeting requirements because it has no common borders with member states. A member of the commission sneered once that the United States had a better chance of being admitted because it did have a common border with Russia in the Bering Strait.

The heads of four observers will be welcome to participate in the discussion within the framework of the Shanghai Six. This broad meeting will take place tomorrow. A meeting of BRIC countries (i.e. Brazil, Russia, India, and China) will take place in Yekaterinburg simultaneously with the Shanghai Six summit - which is another distinctive feature of the forum. "It's fine as long as they adopt no boisterous declarations. They'd better concentrate on a minimum program so as not to strain the agenda unduly," Indian political scientist Nandan Unnikrishnan told RIA-Novosti. Increase of these countries' weight in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank could be one of the items on such an agenda. "We've but put out feelers so far," he said.

A good deal of bilateral meetings will take place in Yekaterinburg, and one trilateral meeting between the leaders of Russia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is a traditional guest at Shanghai Six summits. Sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry say that Medvedev will ask the colleagues to discuss implementation of the action plan adopted at the conference in Moscow this March. This conference was organized under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization aegis. As matters stand, Moscow is dissatisfied with how Islamabad and Kabul fulfill their obligations.

Karzai is also slated to meet with his Kyrgyz opposite number Kurmanbek Bakiyev. It is known that he will ask Bakiyev to let the Americans retain their military base on the territory of Kyrgyzstan.

Russia will step down as the current chair-in-office and let Uzbekistan assume these duties, in Yekaterinburg. Some organization members are openly upset because relations between Uzbekistan and its neighbors Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (all of them members of the organization) leave much to be desired. They soured over the problem of hydroelectric power plants on trans-frontier rivers.

Uzbek government-sponsored Narodnoye Slovo featured a critical piece the other day, condemning the readiness of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to build the Kambarata and Rogun hydroelectric power plant "on strategic rivers of the Central Asian region". Official Tashkent is convinced that it may result in an environmental catastrophe and tragic consequences for the Uzbeks. The Uzbeks have been digging trenches and building walls along the border with Kyrgyzstan since late May.

A representative of Kyrgyzstan is supposed to replace Kazakh diplomat Bolat Nurgaliyev as Shanghai Cooperation Organization secretary general in Yekaterinburg. What information is available to this newspaper indicates that Muratbek Imanaliyev, former Foreign Minister, will become the secretary general. A graduate from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations majoring in China, he spent years in Beijing as the Kyrgyz ambassador. This parity in the ruling bodies of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will hopefully dissuade Tashkent from using its chairmanship to promote its own interests.

As a matter of fact, the efforts to draw centers of power within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China and Russia) into the attempts to solve the complicated water and energy problems of the region just might pay off. Even though China, unlike Russia, has always let its partners tackle these matters on their own until now.

Documents of the summit will include the Yekaterinburg declaration, communiqué, counter-terrorism convention, and provision on political-diplomatic response to the situations compromising regional peace and stability. No decisions concerning the military component of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization were prepared. Considering the economic crisis, it is probably hardly surprising.

Arkady Dubnov (Vremya Novostei, No 102, June 15, 2009, p. 4)