When Pakistan and India both become full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), they could finally make peace, but only if they’re interested in doing so. Some question whether Islamabad and New Delhi are even interested in mending fences after decades of deadly military confrontations, a heated exchange of hostile gestures, and various diplomatic efforts to destroy one another. But by remaining enemies, the two nations are missing out on opportunities for profitable bilateral trade and creating a powerful united front against terrorism in the region.
There are several ways the SCO could become the much-needed push for Pakistan and India to finally make peace. The coalition, which is oftentimes referred to as the “Eurasian NATO,” has been on every Eurasian country’s mind since Russia and China created it in 2001. Pakistan in particular has been keen on joining the SCO, but it has been kept in the “official observer” seat for more than a decade.
On June 9, the SCO announced that Pakistan is now a full member, but Islamabad wasn’t the only nation to join the Eurasian political, economic, and security bloc that day. India – Pakistan’s most-hated enemy – was officially inducted into the SCO as well.
While one can argue that inducting two historical enemies into the security bloc on the same day, is suicidal, the bright minds in the SCO may have looked at their decision’s potential benefits in the long run. Of particular interest to the coalition is that it could help Pakistan and India finally make peace to be a united front.
SCO brings Pakistan and India closer, but are they open to dialogue?
China was the driving force behind inducting Pakistan into the SCO as a full member. Other members of the bloc, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, all had reservations about Islamabad’s alleged ties to terrorism, which India has been trying adamantly to prove for years. But ironically, India ended up with Pakistan in the same security organization, and now the two nations have to stand as a united front under the banner of the SCO.
During the June 9 induction ceremony in Astana, Kazakhstan for Pakistan and India to become full members of the SCO, the two nations did something they almost never do; the leaders of the countries that for decades have waged both vocal and physical wars shook hands. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi greeted one another and exchanged remarks that signaled that these traditional enemies may be open to finally making peace.
Modi noted in his address that India’s relationship with the SCO countries has been historical, while Nawaz stressed that all SCO states should focus on leaving behind a legacy of peace and prosperity instead of spreading conflict in the world.
Islamabad and New Delhi stand as a united front in the SCO
Modi and Nawaz have yet to hold a formal meeting within the scope of the SCO. However, the mere fact that their countries are now part of one bloc means that they will be holding dialogues more frequently, as they are now two vital wheels of the SCO machine. Historically, communications between Pakistan and India has been reduced to accusations and attempts to rip each another’s throats out.
Islamabad’s and New Delhi’s full memberships in the bloc also mean that they will have to learn to come to agreements together, as the organization’s political, economic and security policies and decisions depend on each and every vote of its members. The most optimistic outcome of renewed talks between Pakistan and India is, of course, potential dialogues to lay out the groundwork for resolving the Kashmir issue.
The SCO already brings Pakistan and India together on quite a few key issues, one of which is climate change. U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate change agreement refueled climate change discussions around the world, and the SCO was no exception. The bloc reiterated its efforts to tackle climate change, and both Islamabad and New Delhi – equally vulnerable to climate change – shared their views on the importance of pushing their climate change agenda around the world despite the withdrawal of the U.S. This means the two nations will stand as a united front as part of the SCO to tackle climate change.
Are Islamabad and New Delhi open to making peace?
Inclusion in the SCO also most certainly guarantees that the rest of the bloc’s states will be pursuing efforts to improve bilateral Pakistan-India relations, since all members of the organization must show a united front, even when it comes to their militaries.
Pakistan and India’s full membership in the SCO might also solve their energy problems, as the bloc involves major Central Asian Republics (CARs), all of which are rich in energy resources. The CARs will benefit from exporting gas and electricity to energy-hungry Pakistan and India, while the South Asian neighbors could resolve their energy shortage problems. This also creates a favorable environment for the completion of the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline and the Central Asia South Asia (CASA) 1000 electricity line, both of which are essential to the prosperity of Islamabad and New Delhi.
Trade between Pakistan and India and between them and all other SCO members is expected to substantially improve in the coming months and years. The communication channels between Islamabad and New Delhi will be increased, as trade and commercial activities between them will soar. These factors will most certainly lead to economic development, while the economies of Pakistan and India will experience enhanced growth.
The full membership of Pakistan and India in the SCO could also help the two nations join forces to eradicate terrorist groups in the region. This could pave the way for the two countries to resolve their Kashmir dispute in a long-term perspective.