BY RUPAK ARYAL
In October 2018, the Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Rashid Alimov said that the SCO countries were planning to create a unified transit system for development of the logistics potential of the partner states. To this end, the SCO member states are going to expand their road network. This aspect of the activities of the SCO is of great interest for Nepal. The economic cooperation within the framework of the SCO will allow Kathmandu to solve a number of issues of its economic development, primarily in the transport, financial and energy sectors.
According to the SCO Charter, the objectives of the organization are ensuring of stability and security in the region, the fight against terrorism and extremism, the development of economic cooperation, energy partnership, scientific and cultural interaction. The areas of high priority are transport infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, oil and gas sector, and agriculture.
The SCO member states adhere to the principles of consensus, mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, respect for cultural diversity, and aspiration for joint development. In its external relations, the SCO is guided by the principles of openness, non-belonging to blocs and non-directionality against third countries.
On 23 September 2003, the meeting of the heads of government of the SCO countriesin Beijing adopted the long-term program of multilateral economic cooperation until 2020. This program provides for creation of the common economic space within the organization. The SCO member states aim, in the short term, to increase trade turnover and, in the long term, to create a free-trade area.
Another priority of the organization is more intensive cooperation in the humanitarian area. Every year, the SCO member states hold joint cultural events, exchange students and teaching staff of their universities,organize cultural and art festivals. In 2008, they established the SCO University, which operates as a network of universities of the SCO members and observer states. These activities contribute to the strengthening of relations between the member states and rapprochement between their peoples. The SCO’s work is based on the principles of equality and mutual respect, and that is an important condition and guarantee of its successful development.
The SCO intensively develops and welcomes the desire of other countries to join it. In 2016, Nepal managed to take the first step towards the entry into the SCO. Kathmandu officially received the status of a dialogue partner. The respective memorandum was signed at the headquarters of the SCO in Beijing with the participation of its Secretary General Rashid Alimov and Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. At the same time, the Secretary General of the Organization stressed that Nepal received the access to diverse activities of the SCO.
The Deputy Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Peter Tolstoy noted that Nepal’s participation in the work of the SCO opened up new prospects for cooperation between Moscow and Kathmandu in such areas as trade, energy, investment, culture and education. The delegation of Russia’s Foreign Ministry headed by Zamir Kabulov, Director of the Second Department of Asia, visited Kathmandu on April 17, 2018 to hold talks with Ghanshyam Bhandari, Joint Secretary of the Europe and America Division of Nepal’s Foreign Ministry. Besides, representatives of Russia’s Foreign Ministry had meetings with the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Education, the ministries of science, energy and water resources of Nepal. During the meetings, Russian and Nepali sides discussed the issues of cooperation in the areas of security, trade and investment in promising national projects.
Increasing the level of its participation in the SCO up to becoming a full memberstate remains one of important tasks of Nepal’s foreign policy. This step will further expand Kathmandu’sopportunities for development of relations with other SCO member states in lots of areas.