The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Must Defend Pakistan Against Rogue Fellow Members of the SCO

This morning, three terrorists proclaiming loyalty to the so-called Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a group with long standing ties to India’s RAW attempted to storm the visa section of the Chinese Consulate General in Karachi. The three terrorists aimed to detonate suicide bombs while it was later revealed that they arrived in a car filled with explosives. A statement from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations reads:

“Terrorists attempted to enter Chinese consulate. Rangers and police have got control. Three terrorists killed. All Chinese safe. Situation under control”.

Prime Minister Imran Khan immediately took to Twitter to issue the following statement:

“Strongly condemn the terrorist attacks against Chinese Consulate in Karachi & in Orakzai tribal area. My prayers go to the victims & their families. Salute the brave security/police personnel who gave their lives & denied success to terrorists in the mission ag Chinese Consulate.

I am absolutely clear both these attacks are part of a planned campaign to create unrest in the country by those who do not want Pakistan to prosper. Let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind that we will crush the terrorists, whatever it takes.

The failed attack against the Chinese Consulate was clearly a reaction to the unprecedented trade agreements that resulted from our trip to China. The attack was intended to scare Chinese investors and undermine CPEC. These terrorists will not succeed”.

There can be no doubt that the timing of today’s outrageous criminal provocation was aimed not just at taking lives but as Imran Khan correctly states, it was a calculated and malicious attempt to stall work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and to undermine the all weather win-win friendship between the China and Pakistan.

The Chinese Embassy in Islamabad also released a statement saying that the attackers and their backers would not succeed in altering the fundamental dynamics of the strong China-Pakistan partnership.

It is clear from the official reactions from Chinese and Pakistani officials that it is accepted that today’s attempted atrocity which has resulted in the martyrdom of two Pakistani policemen was not just a savage attempt on human life but a barbarous plot to disgustingly meddle in the peaceful economic and diplomatic relations between two friendly neighbouring states.

The clear subtext to this is that as the BLA has well known links to the Indian state and the RAW intelligence agency in particular, as well as the regime in Kabul- the foreign governments in question that have long funded, orchestrated and armed anti-Pakistan terrorists must be held to account. Furthermore, since the attack specifically sought to slaughter Chinese nationals working in an official capacity within Pakistan, the attack is as much of an assault on the security of China as it is on the security of Pakistan.

Donald Trump has recently reiterated his views that Pakistan has not helped Washington’s so-called war on terror even though the reality is that Pakistan sacrificed more of its own citizens and resources as part of this fight than any other nation. And yet while the US unilaterally accuses Pakistan of being “soft” on terror, even nations with historically strained relations with New Delhi and Kabul are often reticent to name and shame governments whose treasure, man hours and intelligence services are utilised to foment terror attacks on both civilian and official targets in Pakistan. Now that China is in the midst of deepening its all weather friendship with Pakistan within the context of CPEC, China and its other partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) must take India and also Afghanistan to task for their role in both passively and actively facilitating terrorism in the region.

As India and Pakistan are now both members of the SCO while Afghanistan is an observer nation, there is absolutely no excuse for covert aggression against fellow SCO members in the form of the sponsorship of terrorism.

While the SCO is not a defensive alliance but rather a collective security organisation aiming to fight against common threats including that of non-state terrorism, when some alleged non-state terrorism aimed at SCO members is actually state funded and orchestrated terrorism in a false guise, the SCO risks becoming irrelevant if it does not take action in respect of bringing its rogue members and/or observers into line. While the SCO is not known for issuing the kind of dramatic proclamations generally associated with organisations like NATO, this should not stop individual member states from calling out fellow SCO members regarding their reckless behaviour while more importantly, it cannot prohibit swift ‘behind the scenes’ action to force rogue SCO members to cease their malicious activities and become part of a genuine security organisation in which the interests of all members are respected.

Here, SCO member Russia can play a crucial role as Moscow currently enjoys extremely healthy relations with China and a rapidly fomenting partnership with Pakistan while retaining historic ties to India as well as a close finger on the pulse of events in Kabul. Therefore, Russia is well placed to conduct the aforementioned ‘behind the scenes’ dressing down of rogue elements in the SCO in order to make sure that the organisation doesn’t descent into something farcical and ultimately useless. Russia in fact has a duty to itself and its fellow SCO members to conduct such activities for the sake of balancing its own multilateral partnerships throughout Asia, while China has a clear interest in encouraging Russia to take such necessary action.

There can be no excuse for the attempted atrocity witnessed today in Karachi in an age where India and Pakistan are both full members of a security organisation that was co-founded by China and Russia. If the SCO cannot bring India and Afghanistan’s links with terror under control, one must ask the brutally frank question: what is the SCO good for?

The time for swift (however private) action is now. Anything less would be a dereliction of duty in the face of a supremely grave terror threat.

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