China-Led SCO Summit Kicks Off With Pak, India New Members, Iran’s Rouhani Attending

JUN 10, 2018 — The heads of eight member states – China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan – as well as those of four observer states- Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia are participating in the 18th SCO summit in Qingdao on the coast of Yellow Sea.

It is the first such summit since the organization’s expansion in June 2017 when India and Pakistan joined as full members.

President Xi Jinping while welcoming the participants at a dinner Saturday evening said,“Qingdao is a famous international sailing capital. It is from here that many ships set sail in pursuit of dreams,” said  “The Qingdao summit is a new departure point for us. Together, let us hoist the sail of the Shanghai Spirit, break waves and embark on a new voyage for our organization.”

The Shanghai Spirit of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and pursuit of common development, was stated in the Charter of the SCO, a comprehensive regional organization founded in 2001 to promote regional security, cooperation and good neighborliness.

President Mamnoon Hussain, Indian PM Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin are one of the major attendees — the Iranian president is attending the two-day summit upon the invitation by his Chinese counterpart.

Some senior officials, such as Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh, and Minister of Economy Masoud Karbasian are accompanying President Rouhani in the meeting. On the sidelines of the summit, Rouhani will also meet the heads of some member states and international organizations as it charts its course amid looming sanctions by the US after Trump withdrew from the 6-nation Iran Nuclear deal last month.

‘Four documents will be signed on fighting narcotics and organized crimes, Iran’s role in ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, stock exchange and security cooperation, and academic cooperation,’ said Ali-Asghar Khaji, Iran’s ambassador to Beijing, according to IRNA.

Though not officially on the agenda, analysts say that one key topic of discussion at the summit this year may focus on whether Iran will be allowed to ascend from its position as an SCO observer to become a full member state – a development it has sought since 2008 but has been unable to achieve while subject to UN sanctions.

The SCO has grown to be an organization covering over 60 percent of the Eurasian landmass, nearly half the world’s population and over 20 percent of global GDP.

Why Summit in Qingdao

Qingdao is a symbolic choice to host this year’s SCO summit, as it is at the eastern end of a vast railway network across Eurasia, and a logistics center linking the Silk Road Economic Belt with the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Sea cargo is transferred here to five international railway lines to countries in the western end of the continent, 30 days quicker than using sea routes alone.

The vision of the Silk Road Economic Belt was first raised by Xi in Astana of Kazakhstan in September 2013, a few days before he first attended the SCO summit as Chinese president. It was later developed into the Belt and Road Initiative.

“China’s initiative brings great opportunity to the SCO,” said SCO Secretary General Rashid Alimov. “The summit in Qingdao will also contribute to the implementation of the initiative.”

The initiative has become an important practice to materialize the vision of a community of a shared future for humanity, said Alimov.

“China itself has engaged in profound cooperation with countries across the world. It will bring rich opportunities to connect the SCO with a broader part of the world,” said Konstantin Kokarev, head of the Center for Asia and Pacific Region, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, in an interview with Xinhua.

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