• Tells Taliban to fulfil promises on inclusive govt
• Moscow asks Washington to unfreeze Afghan central bank assets
• Xi expects Kabul to ‘resolutely fight all forms of terrorism’ and live in peace with its neighbours
• Imran proposes a five-point way forward for regional bloc
DUSHANBE: While asking the Afghan Taliban to yield power to a ‘more inclusive government’, leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) reminded the West in general and the United States in particular that it was their responsibility to help avert a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan after ending their 20-year presence in the country last month.
The fate of Afghanistan dominated the 20th SCO’s Council of Heads of State meeting, held in the capital of Tajikistan.
Pakistan became an SCO Observer in 2005 and a full member along with India in June 2017. Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan are other members of the organisation, which was formed 20 years ago, whereas Iran joined the regional bloc on Friday.
Speaking via video link at the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “The main part of the expenses related to Afghanistan’s post-conflict rebuilding should be borne by the US and NATO countries which are directly responsible for the grave consequences of their prolonged presence in the country.”
He called on Washington to unfreeze assets of the Afghan central bank, which have been blocked since the Taliban takeover, saying without access to the funds, Afghanistan’s new rulers would be tempted to turn to the drugs and arms trades.
He called on the Taliban to curb drug-trafficking and fight against extremist groups while highlighting that the SCO should “use its potential” to “stimulate the new Afghan authorities” in fulfilling their promises on normalising life and bringing security in Afghanistan.
China’s President Xi Jinping said “certain countries” should assume their due responsibilities for Afghanistan’s future development, having been “instigators” of the situation. He also urged “relevant parties” in Afghanistan to eradicate terrorism and promised to provide more help to the war-torn nation. It was necessary to “encourage Afghanistan to put in place a broad-based and inclusive political framework” and to “resolutely fight all forms of terrorism” and live in peace with its neighbours. He was of the opinion that Afghanistan should be guided to be more open and inclusive, and pursue moderate domestic and foreign policies.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said the priority was to “prevent a humanitarian crisis and an economic meltdown. We must remember that the previous government depended heavily on foreign aid and its removal could lead to economic collapse.”
The leaders were also cautious about Afghanistan’s new interim cabinet, formed almost exclusively of ethnic Pashtuns. The main base of Taliban support, Pashtuns comprise less than half of Afghanistan’s population. Most of the other major ethnic groups have close linguistic and ethnic ties to Tajikistan, Iran and Uzbekistan. President Putin noted that the new provisional government could not be called ‘representative or inclusive’, “as we do not see representatives of other ethnic groups there. But we believe we need to work with it.”
PM Khan asserted the Taliban should create an “inclusive political structure” representing of all ethnic groups, and prevent Afghan soil from being used for international militancy.
Calling upon the regional countries to resist any drift towards bloc politics, Mr Khan stressed pursuing the approach of peaceful coexistence. “Peaceful coexistence and cooperation not confrontation, should be the main drivers of global politics,” he said.
The prime minister said addressing the threats to international and regional peace and security was a vital interest for SCO. He said the fight against terror would not be won if such threats and challenges were ignored, with state-terrorism being the biggest one, perpetrated against people living under foreign occupation in disputed territories.
In some cases, such extremist and bigoted ideologies have ascended to capture the state power in so-called democracies, he said.
Mr Khan said the SCO cumulatively represented 44 per cent of the world population, 25pc of global landmass, and 20pc of the global GDP. Impressive progress had been made in strengthening SCO’s normative and institutional basis, and in developing practical cooperation on SCOs twin planks of security and socio-economic development, he said.
The premier also proposed a five-point way forward on the SCO:
“One, we must reaffirm our complete support for effective multilateralism and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, including equality and sovereignty of states, respect for territorial integrity, non-aggression, non-use or threat of force, and peoples right for self-determination.
“Two, we must strengthen our collective endeavours to mitigate the adverse economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including through the SCO Joint Advisory measures.
“Three, we must chart out a coordinated SCO approach towards stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan including through enhanced engagement to address our common concerns and safeguard our shared interests, steps to provide humanitarian support and ensure economic stability, and measures to enable Afghanistan to become a reliable partner in peace and prosperity.
“Four, we must advance the agenda of regional connectivity. In this regard, taking the process forward, Pakistan would like to host a conference on the theme Transport Connectivity for Regional Prosperity in a virtual mode in 2022.
“Five, we must, recognizing the immense potential of our youth, explore all possible avenues for their increased interface and empowerment. Pakistan would like to host a conference on Youth Empowerment through Digital Economy in 2022.”
Addressing President Raisi of Iran as ‘my brother’, PM Khan congratulated the country on admission to SCO as full member. He also congratulated Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar on joining as new dialogue partners.
He congratulated SCO Secretary General Vlamdir Norov on the successful completion of his term and welcomed Ambassador Zhang Ming as the new secretary general. He also congratulated President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on Uzbekistan’s chair of SCO for 2021-22 and assured him of Pakistan’s full support.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2021