Important political events took place in Tashkent last week. Representatives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization have met in the capital of Uzbekistan. This club of Asian states turns 15 this year and it is going to have a bright future. This is the first time Belarus has been represented as an observer at this forum.
Taking part in the Tashkent summit were presidents and prime ministers, so Uzbekistan closed borders with neighboring countries for security reasons. The traffic in the capital was controlled manually at intersections and corners.
Representatives of the six major SCO member states and 12 partners and observers are all in this picture. Being initially a regional project, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is being transformed into a global player. Excitement around the forum proves this. The host of the summit, Islam Karimov, drew attention to the overexcitement of journalists.
Islam Karimov, President of Uzbekistan:
I would like to ask journalists and TV crews to finally calm down and find their place in order not to interfere with the work of the summit.
The main topic of the summit was the expansion of the organization. India and Pakistan are the closest to the SCO membership. That is, the SCO will include four nuclear powers and about three billion people, almost half of the world's population. This is a huge market. The total GDP of the member countries will rise to $20 trillion.
The status of Belarus in the SCO is unique. The republic is the only European country that has received an observer status in the organization, thanks to China, who insisted on such an exception for a strategic partner.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
The People's Republic of China and the Shanghai organization can count on the support of Belarus in all matters that concern the organization today. We are prepared to be the "western gateway" of the organization. And you know how we are able to keep our word. You saw it during the latest visit to Belarus, when we visited the construction site of the Great Stone industrial park. How do you call it, this is the pearl of the Great Silk Road.
Xi Jinping, chairman of the Chinese People's Republic:
I am confident that under your leadership, new progress will be made in Belarus. The Belarusian-Chinese relations are rapidly gaining momentum and support each other on all the issues.
The dynamism of Belarusian-Indian relations can match those between Belarus and China: suffice it to mention the opening of a BelAZ service center in Nagpur, a joint venture for the assembly of MAZ buses in India and an agreement to establish four drug manufacturing factories in Belarus. By 2018, the sides plan to increase trade turnover to one billion dollars.
Of course, we need to create some economic roadmap to achieve this milestone of $1 billion. We have very serious bilateral projects being implemented today. But I believe that one cannot stop there and it is necessary to move forward. And we, of course, are looking forward to your greater presence in the center of Europe. I think it would be good for the Great India. And we are ready to do everything to ensure that your interests in Belarus bring you the biggest possible profit.
First, the SCO is a promising field for the promotion of Belarusian exports to new markets and for investment attraction. To spur trade relations in the region is one of the interests of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The second aspect is work as part of a possible initiative to create the SCO free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union.
Belarus attaches great political and economic importance to the development of cooperation with the Asian region. We fully support the formation of a new architecture of relations in Eurasia, taking into account the interests of all countries of the continent. As an observer country we're not going to watch the game from the bench. Belarus is ready to become an active field player in the organization and make a significant contribution to its work for the benefit of our peoples.
Historically, the initiative began with one goal - to provide security in the region and focus on the economic partnership and the socio-cultural relations. A serious achievement is that India and Pakistan, arch rivals, are going to turn into allies. One could not imagine these countries sitting at one table, let alone its representatives dancing or singing together the dance floor or the song.
This is the first wave of the organization's enlargement. It seems that the Asian initiative has great future. Before the summit, the secretary general of the organization said that five other countries had applied to join the project. He said three are from the Middle East, one from Eastern Europe and one from South-East Asia. Journalists started to guess about the specific names but were able to unravel only three: Israel, Syria and Egypt. Two others remain a mystery. Experts suggest that this is Laos and Hungary.
Yevgeny Gorin, CTV:
Here is the official emblem of the SCO. It depicts the eastern hemisphere and landforms of the six SCO member states. The most interesting is the fact that this version of the logo may lose its relevance already in 2017 when Pakistan and India become full members of the organization. For now, we don't see them on this map.
Astana is going to host the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit next year, with the presidency having passed to Kazakhstan.