OPINION - Regional forums facilitate reconciliation in Afghanistan
2 regional summits in Tajikistan emphasize importance of inclusive government in Afghanistan
The writer is a UK-based analyst and has worked with universities in three Central Asian countries.
At their recent summits, the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have indicated to coordinate steps to bring regional stability and peace in Afghanistan.
A notable development on the sidelines of the SCO summit on Sept. 17 was Tajikistan’s offer to mediate between the Taliban and the Tajik factions holding up around Panjshir intending to bring peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan, as well as China, supported these mediation efforts.
The SCO is thus serving as a forum to allow Tajikistan and Pakistan, to adjust their positions in line with an overall strategic paradigm for addressing the common challenges to the region. These initiatives will help the two countries coordinate their respective efforts to facilitate a setup in Afghanistan that does not exclude any ethnic group in power-sharing. Such steps may enable the concerned parties to advance bilateral understanding for the sake of regional progress and stability and capitalize on much greater opportunities for cooperation.
After the SCO summit, Chinese experts have highlighted that the Taliban taking power in Afghanistan, has given rise to many uncertainties that could pose challenges for regional stability. At a time when due to the pandemic some of the SCO member states are experiencing economic difficulties, the risks of social disquiet could add to the problems.
According to Ding Xiaoxing, China’s leading Eurasian Affairs expert, if countries take unfavorable measures in the geo-competitive realm, they could affect regional stability, thereby disturbing the regional order. He complained that America’s chaotic withdrawal of troops has “imposed a disorder in Afghanistan having direct repercussion for Central Asia”.
He further stated that with members of the SCO in the neighborhood of Afghanistan, the organization can serve as an ideal platform for dialogue to help resolve the challenges facing Afghanistan. There is ample opportunity for the SCO to play a coordinating role, to bring closer the positions of its different members to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Moscow and Beijing coordinating efforts
At the summit, the SCO member states emphasized the inclusive government in Afghanistan with the participation of representatives of all ethnic, religious, and political groups of Afghan society.
Moscow and Beijing have both shown their mutual understanding for coordinated efforts to ensure stability in Afghanistan, a matter, which attracted much attention at the SCO summit.
Under the present circumstances, Russia will strive for optimum cooperation with China on a wide range of issues. By encouraging key stakeholders to talk to each other, they both strive to lower chances for the return of NATO to Afghanistan on the pretext of deteriorating security conditions.
Among the Central Asian leaders Kazakhstan’s President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared that his country will expand interaction with its regional partners to prevent the flow of harmful ideology, drugs, and unregulated migration from Afghanistan.
The Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and SCO signed a memorandum of cooperation in Dushanbe to serve as the basis for the formation of a large Eurasian partnership. It will facilitate to simplify issues, streamline documentation protocol for the clearance of cargo movement, said Mikhail Myasnikovich, chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission.
The SCO member states approved cooperation plans for the period from 2022-2024 to counter-terrorism, separatism, and extremism, as well as plans for the implementation of the SCO anti-drug strategy and on ensuring international information security for the period up to 2023.
China to exert soft power
Decisions were taken to improve the mechanisms for countering the challenges and threats to the security of the SCO member states.
Concerning what could serve best for the region, some observers say the SCO-led initiatives stand a greater chance of stabilizing the situation, preventing Afghanistan from imploding, helping Pakistan and the Central Asian states to make a positive contribution, and in the future facilitate the growth of economy and trade along the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative.
The SCO summit has taken the multifaceted cooperation between the member countries to a new level. The green light was given to mark the beginning of the process of admitting Iran to the organization. This would enable Tehran to partly reduce some pressure caused by economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation imposed by Western countries.
In the coming months, China may be exerting its influence through its soft power, using economic instruments to eventually bring the SCO states closer in line with the country’s expanding circle of influence.
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