Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Astana along with the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in a ceremony and conference welcoming India and Pakistan to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Putin spoke of the need for further cooperation on all matters of mutual interest ranging from trade to anti-terrorism measures. Putin’s speech which emphasised the need for unity between Asia and Eurasia and spoke of using the SCO as a means to help and better coordinate China’s One Belt–One Road trade project.
The SCO now represents a group of nations that features one-time rivals China and Russia, China and India (who still have some lingering issues) as well as India and Pakistan who are not allies to say the least.
However, just as China and Russia have gone from decades long competitors to deeply important partners, the SCO provides India the opportunity to resolve lingering disputes with China as well as those which exist between India and Pakistan.
In joining the SCO, India and Pakistan now have an opportunity to settle crises that have plagued both Asian powers since their creation as independent states.
Vladimir Putin emphasised that settling disputes through military means belongs to another time and that diplomatic cooperation is the only acceptable way forward for countries living in the 21st century.
The message to the wider world is clear, while Donald Trump feuds with fellow NATO members in Europe, withTurkey increasingly exercising a foreign policy independent of NATO, with Britain and the EU at loggerheads and with western and central Europe and loggerheads with Eastern Europe over the man-made refugee issue, the other side of the multi-polar world is uniting.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is now the most important body for establishing cooperative ties between the great powers of Asia and Eurasia. Along with the BRICS and the alliances that will surely be born out of One Belt–One Road, the SCO looks to help unite the super-powers of the East with many smaller post-colonial states.
This latter-most point is made even more clear when one understands that The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which is currently chaired by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, observes meetings of the SCO. Many of the ASEAN nations may look to join the SCO which could go a long ways in solving the protracted disputes over the South China Sea. Rodrigo Duterte has set an example for cooperation between medium sized South East Asian countries and the Chinese super-power.
Furthermore, Iran is also an observer of SCO meetings, something which will become increasingly important as Iran looks to branch out behind its position as a regional Middle Eastern power.
Vladimir Putin set the agenda clearly. The SCO is an organisation uniting the countries of regions of the world where the economic, trade and military cooperation sun is clearly rising: the global east.