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Uzbekistan, Central Asia Try to Redefine Shanghai Cooperation Organization

After most of the 20-year history of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), some observers have suggested that the SCO could become an anti-Western bloc dominated by China and Russia. . While the Central Asian members of this group have had complex partnerships with the United States and Europe, SCO organizer Uzbekistan has confirmed that the SCO will chair the September 15-16 event in Samarkand. used to emphasize that this group is not, and should not be, an anti-social force. America or anti-NATO.

“During my presidency, we sought to strengthen practical cooperation within the organization and increase its potential and international prestige,” said Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Strengthening trade, economic and humanitarian cooperation, along with security issues, were prioritized among statements at the summit attended by more than 800 journalists from the United States.

FILE – Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev meets with Karakalpak leaders and security officials in Nukus, Karakalpakstan, July 3, 2022.

Mirziyoyev welcomed 13 leaders from China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan. The presidents of Belarus, Iran and Mongolia attended as observers, while the presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey attended as invited partners.

Minsk and Tehran aim to join the group in the near future. After years of unsuccessful attempts to join, Iran signed a memorandum of understanding with SCO leaders, and Belarus also expressed a desire to join.

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that “the SCO is evolving from a regional to a global bloc,” arguing that Belarus’ interests are closely aligned with those of SCO members. “We are very grateful for the unanimous support for our bid to join the organization as a full member,” Lukashenko said. experience,” he added.

Pointing to the memorandum, Iran is close to joining, SCO officials say. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi denounces “American unilateralism”, calls for greater free trade within SCO, promotes financial transactions and banking, and seeks to evade Tehran’s accession to US sanctions I made it clear that I see it as a method.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) gestures as he speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 16, 2022.

FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) gestures as he speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 16, 2022.

Xi Jinping talks

The summit’s most newsworthy meeting came on the sidelines of meetings between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the leaders pledged to respect each other’s “core interests.” did. .

China’s description of the meeting was ambiguous about Xi’s pledges. The two leaders have met frequently over the years, but he hadn’t met since the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The trip to Central Asia was Xi’s first overseas business since his COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020.

Putin thanked Xi for what he called a “balanced approach” to Ukraine, but criticized Washington for its “ugly policies” such as supporting Kyiv.

However, in a more modest tone, Xi said, “In the face of changes in the world, the times and history, China will work with Russia to reflect the responsibilities of major countries, play a leading role, and bring about stability.” I am hoping for,” he said. A troubled interconnected world. ”

FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose beside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Sept. 15, 2022.

FILE – Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose beside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Sept. 15, 2022.

Putin said Moscow and Beijing “jointly support shaping a just, democratic and multipolar world, based on international law and the central role of the United Nations.

However, local analysts told VOA that SCO’s fundamental goals have not been hijacked by these current events, or the two largest members of the group.

Ulugbek Hasanov, a professor at the University of World Economics and Diplomacy in Uzbekistan, acknowledges that the SCO is a complex circle of nations that disagree with each other on many important issues. “But they came together in ancient Samarkand with an agenda of enhancing security, trade and innovative cooperation.”

Hasanov sees the focus on climate change, food and energy security, and regional security as positive signs of cooperation, and says the SCO’s mission is diverse and constantly evolving.

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Analysts from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan shared similar insights with VOA, but members argued more concrete steps would be needed to improve the group’s potential.

These Central Asian scholars reflect the desire of their own governments to avoid the SCO becoming a proxy for China and Russia. The SCO must be a “fair and equal platform” for all its members, and Hasanov, who was once Tashkent’s top communications officer, agrees with that intention.

“Central Asia is the heart of this organization,” says Hasanov. In other words, acting locally in Central Asia requires China, Russia and others to reflect Central Asian priorities and agendas, he argues.

Muzaffar Jalalov, Principal of Inha University in Tashkent, said SCO should be a development platform above all else.

“All members have their own interests and policies. But what is clear is that the SCO is not seen as a military bloc, but as a balancing ‘scale’ between the West and Russia and China on the one hand.” It means you shouldn’t. ”

FILE - Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 29 July 2022.

FILE – Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 29 July 2022.

Establishing priorities

Djalarov sees SCO members eager to work together in areas close to issues that Central Asians tend to prioritize, such as education, science and medicine. He welcomes President Mirziyoyev’s proposal on his SCO’s role in promoting digital literacy and information technology.

“Some SCO member countries have greater experience and skills. Collaboration in these areas is important to our overall development.”

International observers see Tashkent’s proposal to set up an Afghanistan aid fund as an important humanitarian step.

Roli Asthana, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Uzbekistan, told VOA that the United Nations takes seriously any initiative that brings countries together. It’s absolutely essential to solving these problems.”

When asked for the UN’s view on the SCO summit, Astana said, “Whether it is climate, connectivity, recovery from pandemics, preparedness for future pandemics, or people-to-people connections, global The challenge requires international cooperation.It is also heartening to hear that today’s leaders have committed to working together on important issues such as trade, connectivity, food security and sustainable development. rice field.”

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 16, 2022.

FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 16, 2022.

India, which stands out as the only integrated democracy among the group’s members, joined the SCO in 2017 alongside rival Pakistan and is the next presidency. The two rivals stood out in Samarkand by not holding bilateral talks.

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