On the 9th and 10th of June, members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will meet in the coastal Chinese city of Qingdao for their annual SCO forum. While this year’s forum will discuss what China calls the three evils of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism, there will also be a strong focus on intensifying trading relations between SCO members, while discussions regarding integration of SCO members into the One Belt–One Road initiative will also form an important core of the meeting’s subject matter.
While the SCO was formed to enhance security cooperation between its members, today’s mission of bringing peace through prosperity means that an essential focus of any long ranging peace initiatives must include a strong emphasis on economic development. The current SCO members include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and India. Observer states who could potentially join in the near future include Belarus, Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia while dialogue partners include Turkey, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Azerbaijan, Nepal and Armenia.
By contrast, the BRICS is a group whose main focus is on pooling investment capabilities and working towards unified development strategies among a smaller group of nations, but one with a wider geographical spread. The BRICS derives its name from its five members Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, although recent BRICS conferences have seen the development of the so-called BRICS+ format which has seen nations as diverse as Egypt, Thailand, Mexico and beyond.
One of the frequent criticisms of the BRICS is that while its members are all dynamic growing economies, it is too limited in its ambitions and perhaps paradoxically too conflicted regarding a single long term strategy. This latter point of criticism has been augmented by the fact that India is increasingly reticent under the leadership of Narendra Modi to engage in what New Delhi sees as “Sino-centric” initiatives.
The solution is not for the BRICS to retreat into a morass of existential contemplation but instead to pool its strengths with many of its fellow SCO members in order to expand the membership and agenda of both organisations. Both the SCO and BRICS are already largely synonymous with the leading nations of the wider global “east and south” whose developmental and security models are accelerating rapidly and furthermore are doing so along the lines of a wider pan-Asian/Afro-Asian and Latino-Asian model of development which increasingly rejects the neo-liberal/hegemonic tendencies of the global “west”.
With the SCO summit set to discuss trading, economic and investment initiatives along with traditional security concerns, there is clearly an existing impetus to broaden the scope of issues central to the SCO. With the BRICS agenda clearly overlapping with the SCO’s, it would make supreme sense to combine the two groups thereby creating a large Shanghai Cooperation and Development Organisation (SCDO) in order to inject fresh vitality into the BRICS format while expanding both existing bodies in such a way as to give the developing world a large forum to discuss all of the increasingly intertwined matters central to the nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
This new group could set itself with a broad but flexible five to ten year plan to work towards the following
–Integrating a large free trading space between ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations), China and the Eurasian Economic Union
–Integrating the One Belt–One Road project across all SCO member states
–Developing a cooperative model for China and ASEAN in the South China Sea which works to exclude US meddling from an Asian authored, owned and executed plan of action
–Working to solve lingering disputes between India and Pakistan
–Developing a regional model for peace in Afghanistan
–Working to combine rapid development in Sub-Saharan Africa while simultaneously working with individual nations on combating the rising threat of terrorism and religious extremism
–Working to rapidly expand One Belt–One Road towards the Mediterranean
–Working to increase trading relationships for development between Latin America and Asia’s fastest growing economies
These broad goals will require a great deal of effort from all respective partners, but most crucially, such goals can only be attained through a vast cooperative network of nations who share similar developmental and security goals, even if they at times have different preferred methods for solving various problems.
A unified single body to directly address the major issues facing the wider global “east and south” does however, offer the best possible chance to solve lingering issues stemming from post-colonial conflicts as well as the 21st century goals of transforming developing nations into moderately prosperous societies on the broadly Chinese model when conscientiously adapted to suit the national characteristics and requirements of all national partners.
The beginning of such a global mission should be the creation and constant expansion of a Shanghai Cooperation and Development Organisation (SCDO) whose plainly defined goal would be building peace through prosperity on the win-win model of the 21st century.