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SCO Foreign Ministers Meet on Afghanistan: The Name of Peace Is Economic Development

July 14 , 2021 (EIRNS)--A central question at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Foreign Ministers’ meeting today in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, was whether the Afghanistan disaster could become a success for the SCO’s approach. In particular, whether the prospect of massive infrastructure development of Afghanistan would be enough to begin healing wounds and outflanking terrorism. The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced his approach July 13, stressing the uniqueness of the SCO, upon its 20th anniversary. The core concept of the SCO is the "Shanghai Spirit ... mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diversity of civilizations, and pursuit of common development.”

Wang Yi elaborated at today’s opening session of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. CGTN reported on Wang Yi’s address: “Noting that the SCO has created a new model of cooperation featuring solidarity and collaboration among countries with different social systems and development paths, Wang made several proposals.... [T]to set an example for the international community in exploring a new type of international relations, the member states should firmly support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns, adding that they should cooperate closely in the face of external interference and challenges.” He called upon the SCO to jointly counter the “three evil forces” of terrorism, extremism and separatism—specifically including “the East Turkistan Islamic Movement.” Further, joint work on the Belt and Road should involve strengthened cooperation in science, technology and innovation, and that all progressive forces “should resist certain countries putting unilateralism and bullying practices above the basic norms of international relations.”

Wang Yi met on the conference sidelines with India’s Foreign Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Jaishankar met separately with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Hanif Atmar. Jaishankar’s statement stressed the need to end the bloodshed and assured Atmar of India’s continued cooperation in “strengthening regional and global consensus to achieve a political settlement in Afghanistan.” Atmar emphasized that Taliban attacks “in collusion with foreign fighters and regional and international terrorist networks” were escalating and that “overcoming this common threat was of vital importance to regional security.” In turn, Atmar met with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and reiterated his warning about the Taliban as a major regional threat, that required “practical cooperation between regional countries, particularly Pakistan, in closing shelters and ceasing funding sources of the Taliban, and encouraging the group to resume meaningful talks and find a political solution.”

There was also a meeting of the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan. Wang Yi pressed the group to weigh in on the United States to join in on the reconstruction of Afghanistan (contrary to Asia Times and various commentators, who are sure that Russia and China want to freeze the U.S. out). Wang Yi was direct: The hasty U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan presents severe challenges. The U.S. cannot shirk its responsibility for the current situation, as the U.S. expressed its readiness to help Afghanistan maintain stability and conduct a peaceful reconstruction. So, the SCO member states should urge the U.S. to honor its commitments. The SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure is perfectly designed to tackle “terrorism, extremism and separatism” and to stop its spread. The SCO “should make full use of existing cooperation mechanisms in economy, trade, culture and other fields to support Afghanistan in enhancing its capacity for independent development....” China will continue to follow “the principle of ‘Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.’ ”

Sun Zhuangzhi, the executive director of the Chinese Research Center at the SCO, explained the Belt and Road approach to Asia Times: “The SCO is able to devise a plan that will pave the way for political stability, its security, economic development, and development of infrastructure projects in Afghanistan.” According to the Asia Times, Wang Yi means for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to extend to Kabul, which already involves two “building blocks”: 1. China Telecom and Afghan Telecom 2017 deal to build a Kashgar-Faizabad fiber optic cable system and expand it to a China-Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan Silk Road system. 2. The February 2021 deal for a railway connecting Islamabad, Kabul and Tashkent.

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