Belarus Joins SCO: Strengthening Eurasian Unity and Influence

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The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, held in Astana from July 3-4, 2024, under the slogan “Strengthening Multilateral Dialogue – the Pursuit of Sustainable Peace and Development,” gathered member states to discuss critical regional and global issues. The SCO, a prominent multilateral organization, comprises India, Iran, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Belarus, and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan and Mongolia hold observer status, while Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bahrain, Egypt, Cambodia, Qatar, Kuwait, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners. The summit marked the transfer of chairmanship to China for the 2024-2025 term, signifying a new chapter in the organization’s ongoing efforts to enhance cooperation and address pressing challenges.

Key Developments and Agreements

Trade and Economic Cooperation

During the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin highlighted the robust and friendly relations between Russia and Qatar. Emphasizing the potential for growth in trade, Putin remarked, “Relations between Russia and Qatar are built on a very good basis, a friendly one.” Despite the relatively small scale of current trade, Putin expressed optimism about future prospects, noting, “Our trade is small in absolute terms, but it has a good growth prospect and trends.” Investment cooperation between Russia and Qatar continues to thrive, with discussions on integrating Qatar into the North-South corridor further bolstering economic ties.

SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group

Putin reiterated Moscow’s support for resuming the activities of the SCO-Afghanistan contact group, emphasizing its role in stabilizing the region. He stated, “We consider it right that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has traditionally been closely involved in the problems of Afghanistan. We support the idea of resuming the activities of the SCO-Afghanistan contact group. We think this will contribute to the further normalization of the situation in this country.” This initiative aligns with the SCO’s broader goals of enhancing regional security and promoting sustainable development.

Final Astana Summit Declaration

The culmination of the summit saw the signing of the final Astana Declaration and several other key documents. These included a document outlining the implementation of the SCO economic cooperation strategy until 2030, a program on cooperation in countering terrorism and separatism, and an anti-drug strategy valid until 2029. These agreements underscore the SCO’s commitment to fostering economic growth, enhancing security, and combating transnational threats through coordinated efforts.

Belarus’ Accession to the SCO

One of the summit’s significant milestones was the official accession of Belarus as a full member of the SCO. Welcoming this development, Putin stated, “I would like to welcome all of you and, of course, President of Belarus Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko in connection with the completion of the procedure for the admission of the Republic of Belarus to official members of the SCO.” This expansion reflects the growing influence and reach of the organization, further solidifying its role as a key player in international relations.

Economic Integration and Growth

Putin emphasized the economic benefits of close cooperation within the SCO, noting, “Close economic ties bring obvious dividends to all participants. The facts speak for themselves. Thus, the average GDP growth of the member countries of our organization last year amounted to more than 5%, industrial production to 4.5%, while the inflation rate is only 2.4%. At the same time, Russia’s trade with the SCO states has increased by a quarter.” The draft decision on developing the SCO strategy until 2035 outlines prospects for deeper cooperation across various sectors, including politics, security, economy, energy, agriculture, high technologies, and innovations.

Security and Stability

Security remains a top priority for the SCO, as highlighted by Putin’s remarks on the transformation of the SCO regional anti-terrorist structure. He stated, “Of course, one of the priorities in the SCO’s activities has been and remains the maintenance of the security of state participants along the perimeter of the external borders. This is exactly what the decisions taken today on the transformation of the SCO regional anti-terrorist structure into a universal center that will respond to the full range of security threats, as well as on the establishment of an anti-drug center in Dushanbe.” The approved program of cooperation in combating separatism and extremism further underscores the organization’s commitment to maintaining regional stability.

Partnership and Cooperation

Putin reaffirmed Russia’s dedication to partnership cooperation within the SCO, emphasizing principles of equality and mutual respect. He noted, “Russia puts a premium to the partnership cooperation within the SCO. We are pleased to note that this cooperation continues to develop steadily on the principles of equality, consideration of each other’s interests, respect for cultural and civilization diversity, and the search for joint solutions to pressing security issues.” The active participation of Kazakh colleagues contributed to a solid package of documents and decisions aimed at strengthening the SCO’s role and influence.

Financial and Economic Policies

The SCO’s approach to financial and economic policies was another focal point of the summit. Putin highlighted the increasing use of national currencies in mutual settlements, stating, “Our countries are increasing the use of national currencies in mutual settlements. For example, by the end of the first four months of this year, their share in Russia’s commercial transactions with the members of the organization had already exceeded 92 percent. I would like to remind you of Russia’s proposal to create its own payment and settlement mechanism in the SCO.” This initiative aims to reduce dependence on external financial systems and enhance economic resilience among member states.

China’s Perspective

Chinese President Xi Jinping underscored the SCO’s commitment to justice and stability. He remarked, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization stands on the right side of history, on the side of justice and impartiality, and is extremely important for the world.” Xi emphasized the need for SCO countries to protect the right to development, maintain stability of production chains, and stimulate regional economies. He also called for joint efforts to counter external interference and support each other.

International Participation

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov highlighted the importance of international participation in the Union State, noting, “This is part of the Union State, and we are interested in the Union State participating in all international processes with a united front.” This statement underscores the interconnectedness of SCO members and their commitment to collaborative efforts on the global stage.

Influence and Authority

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev lauded the SCO’s influence and authority, stating, “Through joint efforts, strengthening the Shanghai spirit and promoting the Shanghai principles, we have turned the SCO into one of the most influential and authoritative international structures. Due to the uniqueness and huge potential of our association, interest in it in the world is steadily growing.” This recognition reflects the organization’s significant role in shaping international relations and promoting multilateral cooperation.

Belarus’ Membership

The formal acceptance of Belarus as the 10th member state of the SCO marked a significant expansion of the organization. Kazakh President Tokayev announced, “Dear heads of state, the decision on the full membership of the Republic of Belarus in the SCO has been made.” He congratulated Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on this achievement, noting that Belarus had swiftly completed all necessary procedures for full participation.

In conclusion, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana highlighted the organization’s commitment to fostering multilateral dialogue, sustainable peace, and development. With significant agreements on economic cooperation, security, and the inclusion of new members, the SCO continues to strengthen its role as a key player in regional and global affairs. The summit’s outcomes reflect the organization’s dedication to promoting stability, economic growth, and collaborative efforts to address pressing challenges in an increasingly interconnected world.

Here’s a detailed table with updated information on the GDP of each SCO country, along with other key details:

CountryYear of AccessionPresident/King/EmirPrime MinisterMinister of Foreign AffairsCurrencyLanguagePopulation (million)CapitalGDP (USD billion, 2024)
Belarus2024Aleksandr LukashenkoRoman GolovchenkoMaksim RyzhenkovBelarusian rubleBelarusian, Russian9.2Minsk78.54
India2017Draupadi MurmuNarendra ModiSubrahmanyam JaishankarIndian rupeeHindi, English1425New Delhi3,937.01
Iran2023Mohammad Mokhber (Acting)Mohammad Mokhber (Senior VP)Ali Bagheri Kani (Acting)RialPersian87.9Tehran403.53
Kazakhstan2001Kassym-Jomart TokayevAlikhan SmailovMurat NurtleuTengeKazakh19.7Astana260.51
China2001Xi JinpingLi QiangWang YiYuanChinese1412Beijing18,532.63
Kyrgyzstan2001Sadyr JaparovAkylbek JaparovZheenbek KulubaevSomKyrgyz7Bishkek9.01
Pakistan2017Arif AlviShehbaz SharifMohammad Ishaq DarPakistani rupeeUrdu, English231Islamabad347.74
Russia2001Vladimir PutinMikhail MishustinSergey LavrovRubleRussian146Moscow2,056.84
Tajikistan2001Emomali RahmonKokhir RasulzodaMuhriddin SirojiddinSomoniTajik10.1Dushanbe12.69
Uzbekistan2001Shavkat MirziyoyevAbdulla AripovBakhtiyor SaidovSumUzbek35.2Tashkent80.14
Afghanistan2012AfghaniPashto, Dari40Kabul20.81
Mongolia2004Khurelsukh UkhnaaOyun-Erdene LuvsannamsraiBattsetseg BatmunkhTugrikMongolian3.3Ulan Bator18.31
Azerbaijan2016Ilham AliyevAli AsadovJeyhun BayramovManatAzeri10.1Baku78.15
Armenia2016Vahagn KhachaturyanNikol PashinyanArarat MirzoyanDramArmenian2.9Yerevan19.23
Cambodia2015Norodom SihamoniHun ManetPrak SokhonnRielKhmer16.5Phnom Penh28.92
Nepal2016Ramchandra PaudelPushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”Narayan Prakash SaudNepalese RupeeNepali30Kathmandu36.54
Turkey2013Recep Tayyip ErdoğanMevlut CavusogluLiraTurkish84Ankara1,113.56
Sri Lanka2010Ranil WickremesingheDinesh GunawardenaAli SabrySri Lankan RupeeSinhala, Tamil22.8Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte81.31
Egypt2022Abdel Fattah el-SisiMostafa MadboulySameh ShoukryEgyptian PoundArabic109Cairo393.91
Saudi Arabia2022Salman bin Abdulaziz Al SaudMohammed bin SalmanPrince Faisal bin Farhan Al SaudSaudi RiyalArabic36Riyadh1,106.02
Qatar2022Tamim bin Hamad Al ThaniKhalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz Al ThaniMohammed bin Abdulrahman Al ThaniRialArabic2.6Doha504.17
Bahrain2023Hamad bin Isa Al KhalifaSalman bin Hamad Al KhalifaAbdullatif bin Rashid AlzayaniBahraini DinarArabic1.6Manama43.97
Maldives2023Ibrahim Mohamed SolihAbdulla ShahidMaldivian RufiyaaDhivehi0.52Male4.86
Myanmar2023Myint SweMin Aung HlaingTan ShweKyatBurmese53Naypyidaw68.31
United Arab Emirates2023Mohamed bin Zayed Al NahyanMohammed bin Rashid Al MaktoumAbdullah bin Zayed Al NahyanUAE DirhamArabic9.4Abu Dhabi504.17
Kuwait2023Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-SabahAhmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-SabahSabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-SabahKuwaiti DinarArabic4.5Kuwait City177.27

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