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While European Union is Collapsing, Eurasia is Integrating

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization learned the lessons of the EU. It’s neither an alliance nor a union. It is a relationship model that respects diversity.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The idea in the title is too evident. While the Brits were voting to leave the EU, India and Pakistan were signing key SCO documents at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Tashkent. These two things happened – collapse there and integration here – on the same day. Below are details, and they are very interesting, as always.

It’s not a stadium here

<figcaption>Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tashkent</figcaption>
Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tashkent

First, let’s note that there were no official ceremonies in relation to the integration of India and Pakistan, two new flags were not added to the six ones of the current SCO members.

The decision on their entering was accepted a year ago at a summit in Ufa, and now the following happened: the leaders of the six SCO countries accepted memorandums on the commitments of their Indian and Pakistani colleagues to the conventions mandatory for each of its members.  

This is what President Vladimir Putin said on the subject at the concluding press conference: “You saw that we completed the affiliation of two large countries – India and Pakistan; there are only formalities left, and we can say that they are going to become full members of this organization by next year. After they enter, the organization will gain a new sound and a new weigh and we can say that the summit was a complete success.” The he answered questions on Great Britain and the EU.

As we can see, we’re not in a stadium playing the game Eurasia-EU 1:0. The SCO exists not to confront the others, even in a propagandist way.

Besides, the affiliation of the Indians and Pakistanis to all the SCO mechanisms is a matter of paperwork, but a long one; they still need to sign about 30 documents. It’s a long bureaucratic procedure that sometimes requires coordination with parliaments or other authorities.  

The summit was a formality. The  documents, which were coordinated beforehand, were signed: the Tashkent declaration , the plan of action of the organization for 2016-2020 to achieve the Development Strategy by 2025, the report of the Council of Regional Anti-Terror Structures on its activity in 2015 and so on.  

The SCO changed the political geography of the globe on the first and other key stages of its operation (like the summit in Ufa), and today it is creating a cooperation infrastructure with many councils – often where it didn’t exist before. The summits only sum up the experience of what happened during the year, in a clerical way. This was especially evident  in Tashkent.

Don’t repeat mistakes of others

The SCO is neither an alliance, nor a union, because all its members think that the time of unions has passed (as things happening to the EU and NATO demonstrate). Note the idea that oversaw the preparation of documents for the current summit, on reinforcement of the military component of the organization without changes in its status. This can lead to possible problems on the part of Afghanistan, and more precisely extremist, jihadist forces in the region.  

But if it is not a union, what is it then? Apparently, it’s an attempt to build a modern model of relations between countries that are united by region, but divided by many specificities, which they countries want to save, without being neutralized by rules and standards.

Is this a challenge to the standardized West? No, it’s just an attempt not to repeat its mistakes, which are very evident on Great Britain’s ‘independence day’. It’s an attempt, but we cannot know whether it will be successful.  

This is about ‘open regionalism’ – i.e. no one prevents the countries from becoming a member of other unions. This is a non-western approach, and sometimes it holds the SCO as an organization back, but it can’t be otherwise.  

It is specified in the document signed by India and Pakistan, that SCO members shouldn’t work against each other’s interests, though relations between many of them may be tense. The other thing is that the SCO serves  as a venue where they may try to agree.

Let’s look at the list of the 18 countries who are members of the SCO. There will be 8 full members next year’s summit in Astana: China and India, Russia and Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirghizia. The others, which have observer or partner status, – are their neighbors, may be considering the integration process. It’s hard to imagine more different countries.  

The European countries were the also different at the beginning of integration. They kept track of the neutralization of specificities and reduction of sovereignty. As we can see now, they were mistaken. But this doesn’t mean that our integration is better – it has hardly started. According to some statements made by the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, the host of the meeting, this time it was harder to prepare for the summit.

Right now, “the SCO’s formula” looks simple: prevent military and political shocks in  Central Asia, build an infrastructure (roads, logistics centers, information bases and legal system), that would really unify all the countries of one region.

Note that culture and education, within the SCO, are part of that infrastructure,an overarching humanitarian space that is being created in Eurasia. The process is not only huge – it’s eternal.

And let’s not forget that the SCO does not encompass the whole range of relations, for example, between Russia and India, or China and Russia, but only that which relates to the newly-constructed region in Central Asia. It is a regional project. You could say, as Chinese do, that an ancient model of the world, which had the Great Silk Route as its center center, is being recreated, from China to Europe, but we all know that this is about shaping the future, not restoring the past.

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