Calls For New Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Development Strategy

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The SCO may be preparing for a new post-Ukraine conflict geopolitical order     

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

The current Kazakhstan President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a previous Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, has been speaking at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Heads of State summit currently chaired by India.

He has stated that “The SCO has confidently embarked on its new transformation today, which opens up even broader opportunities. Our work can no longer be based on outdated approaches at the new stage. It is time to adopt a new SCO development strategy.”

Kazakhstan has worked out a draft of this document and plans to present it during its upcoming presidency of the organization.

“A new strategy should expand the SCO agenda as concerns the most promising avenues of our interaction. The continued enhancement of the organization’s activities will become an important step toward properly responding to new challenges and adapting the SCO to new realities. I propose adopting a strategy for bolstering the SCO’s potential by the next summit in Astana, properly accounting for Kazakhstan’s proposals aimed at attaining precisely these goals.” he said.

Tokayev also called on the SCO member nations “to distance themselves from bilateral problems” and concentrate all efforts on implementing the existing agreements.

“The SCO should continue to be identified precisely with mutual understanding and cooperation in the name of long-term interests of our peoples.” he said.

The SCO is a trade and security bloc that was founded in 2001 and currently includes as full members China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In addition to the full members, the SCO also includes Afghanistan and Mongolia as observers, and dialogue partners in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Cambodia, Egypt, Kuwait, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Turkiye, and the UAE. These have all been present at yesterdays (July 4) Heads of State summit along with guests – including ASEAN and the CIS blocs, Turkmenistan, and the UN. The heads of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, were also invited. There have additionally been discussions to integrate the SCO with the EAEU and BRICS.

The website for the current Indian chairmanship of the SCO is here New Delhi has themed regional security as its priority task.

The timing of Tokayev’s remarks concerning a new direction for the SCO are interesting. It comes as calls for a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine conflict are growing louder and follows a White House announcement that the United States will not be sending F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine ‘until after the war is over.’

This signals that negotiations, whether Ukrainian President Zelensky likes it or not, will have to be entered into with Moscow. Tokayev himself, with a deep understanding of Russia, a senior career at the United Nations and an ability to stand up to Russian President Putin, could well be a candidate to be part of that.

The SCO itself, which has a significant vested interest in the outcome of any settlement, would need to adapt, as Tokayev stated, to new realities in the Eurasian space. This could well be the basis of his remarks concerning SCO development.

In terms of the Indian Prime Minister’s remarks, Narendra Modi, Chair of the SCO summit placed focus on regional security and especially that related to Islamic fundamentalism, saying that SCO countries need to take decisive measures to combat terrorism and boost cooperation in the fight against the financing of terrorism.

Modi said that the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure would play an important role in addressing these issues by stating “We should also prevent attempts to radicalize the youth in our countries.”

China’s Xi Jinping dealt with the wider issue of counteracting hegemonism and power politics on the international stage, stating that “It is necessary to implement multilateralism and fine-tune global management; we must stand up for shared human values, defend the UN-centric international system and world order based on international law, counteract hegemonism and power politics.”

He urged the SCO attendees to facilitate the development of global management and make a joint contribution to maintaining international peace, global development, and the protection of the world order. That is a direct reference to the concept of a multipolar society as opposed to one organised by the West.

Russian President Putin meanwhile congratulated Iran’s elevation to full SCO membership and noted the growing global influence of the SCO, saying that “One cannot but be pleased with the increasing authority and clout of the SCO and the growing interest in the organization’s activities on the part of other countries and international structures. Many of them aspire to establish an equitable dialogue with the SCO and are considering the possibility of joining its work. They trust us, they want to be friends with us and cooperate with us.”

A meeting of the SCO Prime Ministers is scheduled to take place in Bishkek on October 25-26 to discuss economic cooperation and to take practical decisions forward as concerns these developments.

This may indicate that negotiations between Russia and Ukraine could be underway by then as regional institutions prepare themselves for a re-organised Eurasian geopolitical future.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates. He can be contacted at

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