ISLAMABAD, Sept 11: “SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) can and will play a bigger role in Afghanistan after the Nato withdrawal,” said Zhang Deguang, Chairman of China Foundation of International Studies (CFIS) and former Secretary General of SCO.
He was speaking at a roundtable discussion at the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) on Tuesday heading a high-level delegation from China.
He added that Afghanistan has been on the agenda of all of SCO’s recent foreign ministerial and heads of state meetings.
Mr Zhang maintained that SCO’s position on Afghanistan was very similar to that of China, which is to have a stable, independent, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan. He added that Afghanistan was also taking keen interest in the SCO and had participated in various conferences and meetings.
He shared that while the SCO was keen on giving full membership to Pakistan, it still need to work out a number of administrative arrangements.
He urged Pakistan to deepen its cooperation with SCO even before acquiring full membership of the organisation.
He said that China was closely cooperating with Russia and Central Asian Republics (Cars) on Afghanistan and wanted to continue to work together with Pakistan on finding a solution to the problems in Afghanistan.
He shared that China was mindful of the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the war against terror.
He said that China was looking forward to strengthening trade and economic cooperation with Pakistan, which, he said, had a great potential.
Zhou Gang, Senior Research Fellow at CFIS and former Ambassador to India and Pakistan said that China and Pakistan were equally concerned about Afghanistan being its next-door neighbour.
He was of the view that the Nato withdrawal from Afghanistan might not be a smooth transition.
He added that the US would keep some military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, but that it was not clear how the US would consolidate the government of Afghanistan post-2014 and keep its relations with its immediate neighbours stable.
Dr Li Jianmin, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said that Russia did not want to get involved in any counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan because of its Soviet-era past with Afghanistan.
He added that Russia’s major concern with respect to Afghanistan was drug-trafficking through Cars to Russia.