SCO-ASEAN Cooperation for Mutual Interests

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation set up in 2001 has by now turned into an influential international body. In fact, no effective solutions to a number of regional issues can be found without the SCO's involvement.

"In a historically short period the SCO has managed to prove its viability and also established itself in global politics as an international forum for addressing a wide range of regional challenges areas such as politics, security, economic and humanitarian collaboration," Islam Karimov, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, noted.

One of the crucial directions in the SCO's activities is the development of a network for partnership relations with leading international and regional organisations. The SCO's efforts, especially countering terrorism, radical extremism, separatism, drug trafficking and organised crime, bear both regional and global significance.

In this connection, back in 2004 the leaders of the SCO member states at a Summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, addressed other international and regional fora with a proposal to gradually set up a partnership network of multilateral associations.

A number of nations and international organisations have expressed readiness to cooperate, including the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

Experts believe that there is great potential for enhancing cooperation between the SCO and ASEAN primarily due to the fact that both organisations hold similar positions on many regional and global issues.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariats of the SCO and ASEAN signed in 2005 in Jakarta, Indonesia, outlined the major venues of cooperation and interaction between the two international organisations. According to the Memorandum, the priority areas of interaction are combating terrorism and transnational crime, drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, and illegal migration. The two sides agreed on cooperating in such areas as economy and finance, tourism, environmental protection, and the use of natural resources as well as energy, especially hydro power and bio fuels.

It is worthwhile to note that one of the key directions in the SCO-ASEAN interaction is cooperation in providing regional security. ASEAN comes out as an effective mechanism for discussing and tackling current challenges and threats in Southeast Asia. The SCO, in turn, plays a major role in constructing a system of collective security in the Asia-Pacific Region (APR). Alongside other international associations, the SCO is viewed as an important link in the system of multilateral cooperation.

Experts often state that the SCO's anti-terror activities, which have become one of its priorities, bear a certain resemblance to ASEAN's.

The two organisations, apart from similar aims and tasks in the political, economic, environmental and humanitarian dimensions, have a number of other features that unite them: the legal status of international organisations, signed charter documents and other core regulatory acts.

The SCO and AEAN member states are connected by geographical proximity, common aspirations in the APR, their concern in enhancing peace and stability in the organisations' venues, establishing mutually beneficial cooperation in such areas as economy, transport, culture and tourism.

The cooperation between the SCO and ASEAN is also boosted by establishing investment and financial collaboration, including information exchange on recovery from the global recession, as well as contacts between business circles and joint projects.

At present the SCO-ASEAN interaction is pursued through an exchange of information and experiences by the secretariats of the two organisations and through expert consultations. In November 2008, Beijing, China, was the venue for a meeting between the SCO and ASEAN secretaries general, who confirmed their intention to sustain regular contacts on the basis of the Memorandum signed earlier.