SCO Bishkek Summit Brings Good News for Afghanistan
Liu Jinsong, Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan
On 14 June, the Council of Heads of Member States of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) met in Bishkek. The Chinese and Afghan heads of states joined leaders of 18 other countries plus international and regional organizations got together on strategies for regional development. In the declaration adopted therein, the leaders identified resolution of the Afghan question as soon as possible as an important factor for maintaining and strengthening regional security and stability. The good will expressed by all parties means new important opportunities for peace, reconciliation, reconstruction and development in Afghanistan.
The direction for deepened China-Afghanistan cooperation was identified. During the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping had a successful meeting with his Afghan counterpart President Ashraf Ghani, the fifth presidential bilateral between the two countries during SCO summits since 2015. Xi congratulated Ghani on the 100th anniversary of Afghan independence and wished Afghanistan peace, stability and development at an early date. According to Xi, as a traditional friendly neighbour and strategic partner, the Chinese side feels keenly the Afghan people’s sufferings from war and chaos and stands ready to constantly deepen mutually-beneficial cooperation in all fields, steadily advance practical projects of economic and trade collaboration and support enterprises of the two countries to strengthen their cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit and win-win within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China will, as always, provide within the best of its capacity assistance for peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan and help it build up its capacity to combat terrorism and maintain stability. The role of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group should be given further play and empowered to play a constructive role in Afghanistan’s effort towards peace, reconciliation, stability and development by enhancing cooperation in all fields. Ghani congratulated Xi on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, appreciated the Chinese side for the positive role it plays in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process and regional peace and stability, expressed the Afghan commitment to jointly counter the ‘three evil forces’ including the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, and vowed to align the Afghan reconstruction and development planning with the BRI and forge an even closer relationship of economic and trade cooperation with China.
A further regional consensus on Afghan peace was fostered. In his speech at the summit, President Xi reiterated the Chinese support to an extensive and inclusive Afghan reconciliation process and promised to continue advocating through various channels peace and negotiation and helping the Afghan people towards internal dialogues. The Chinese side supports Afghanistan and Pakistan to improve their relations, enhance mutual dialogue and develop cooperation and is poised to further deepen trilateral cooperation with them. SCO members stressed that the Afghan national reconciliation process should be Afghan led, Afghan owned and vowed to support the political reconciliation process both bilaterally and within the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group with a view to restoring peace and stability in the country as soon as possible. Member states also called upon the international community to create conditions for peace in Afghanistan at an early date and support the UN’s leading role in the international effort to coordinate a resolution to the Afghan question and assist its reconciliation. At the current critical stage in the reconciliation process, SCO’s firm commitment will be conducive to developing a regional consensus on Afghan reconciliation and creating a stable surrounding environment for peace in the country.
Strong support was provided for Afghanistan to counter terrorism and maintain stability. In his speech at the summit, President Xi pointed out that as Afghanistan lives next to SCO members and is an important observer, the SCO identifies itself with the Afghan people’s sufferings. Member states strongly condemn terrorism in any form and oppose emphatically vindication of any terrorist or extremist act on any ground. As the SCO members see it, terrorism should be addressed with combined measures, through tightened suppression of terrorist philosophy and propaganda and on the basis of identifying and eliminating factors fueling terrorism and extremism. Counter-terrorism and -extremism must not be used as an excuse to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, nor should terrorist, extremist or radical organizations be used by any country for selfish interests. Member states should strengthen anti-drug cooperation and prioritize the combat against illegal farming, production, trafficking and proliferation of narcotic drugs, psychotropic drugs and their precursors. SCO members support Afghanistan to be an independent, neutral, peaceful and prosperous country with neither terrorism nor drug-related crimes. The summit has again demonstrated the SCO’s firm determination to safeguard regional peace and stability and readiness to provide a strong support for Afghanistan in its fight against terrorism and for stability.
More opportunities are available for peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan. The SCO is a comprehensive regional cooperation organization covering the largest area and most population in the world, with rich resource endowment, huge market and high capacity in scientific and technological innovation. At the summit, the leaders undertook to support the Afghan government and people in rebuilding peace, promoting economic development and cracking down on terrorism, extremism and drug-related crimes. They agreed to speed up implementation of specific projects, increase regional connectivity, develop infrastructure, build a multifunctional international logistics, trade and tourism centre, apply new and energy-saving technologies and tap the potentials of observer states and dialogue partners. In this connection, the member states will advance trade and investment facilitation within their region. Afghanistan is the heart of Asia, has similar customs and profound traditional friendships with the most SCO countries and thus enjoy a natural geographic and cultural advantage to participate in SCO cooperation. In the process of BRI implementation, the SCO will be more open and bring more benefits to all. With increased regional cooperation, Afghanistan will embrace more development opportunities and regain the splendor as the pearl along the ancient Silk Road.
At present, the SCO enjoys a sound development momentum as a whole, with steadily increasing share in the global economy and constantly growing contribution to global economic growth and regional peace and stability. China and the SCO take the Afghan situation seriously, feels keenly the pains of the Afghan people and call upon all parties and factions in the country to seize the opportunity and go with the tide to promote integrated development with the SCO, which will help create a cooperation platform of solidarity, mutual trust, shared security, mutual benefit and win-win, eradicate the breeding soil of terrorism and lay down the foundation for peace, reconstruction and socioeconomic development in Afghanistan. There is all the reason for us to believe that with the support and help of the SCO and rest of the international community, Afghanistan, the heart of Asia, will for sure regain full vigor and vitality.