July 16 (EIRNS)—There continued to be a flurry of diplomatic activity around the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) ministerial and SCO Afghanistan Contact Group, which met July 13-14 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Before heading to Dushanbe, on July 12-13, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi stopped in Ashgabat to meet with Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and other officials. China’s Foreign Ministry reported that during the meeting Wang Yi said, “the two countries should sign as soon as possible documents on the alignment of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative with Turkmenistan’s development strategy to revive the Great Silk Road,” and formulate a five-year plan for all-round cooperation.” This included China’s “cooperation with Turkmenistan across the whole industrial chain of oil and gas.” On July 15-16, after the SCO conferences, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan travelled to Uzbekistan, to meet with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
The two leaders discussed cooperation in fighting COVID-19. Their “Joint Declaration on the Establishment of Strategic Partnership between The Republic of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan” emphasized: “The leaders stressed the importance of regional integration and connectivity as a cornerstone of economic development and progress. In this regard, they welcomed the exchange of high-level visits in the areas of trade, railways, transport and aviation.
“The two leaders reiterated their support for the Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway project as an important initiative to create a rail link from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea through Afghanistan and the Pakistani seaports of Karachi, Gwadar and Bin Qasim….
“The two leaders also recognized the immense potential of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for the benefit of the entire Central Asianregion and beyond entailing greater connectivity and trade linkages through a network of transport, fiber optic cable, energy pipelines, and investment opportunities in its SEZs [Special Economic Zones].”
Over July 15-16 Uzbekistan President Mirziyoyev hosted the “Central and South Asia: Regional Interconnectedness. Challenges and Opportunities” with Prime Minister Khan and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, as well as Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov, Wang Yi, and the other participants in the SCO Foreign Ministers’ Council, representatives of the U.S., Israel, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Japan, EU and UN.
Meantime, Afghani researcher Ahmad Bilal Khalil wrote in “Afghanistan the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” in the July 14 issue of The Diplomat that Afghanistan’s development lies with the nations that comprise the SCO, for which he advocated Afghanistan having full membership. Khalil explained, “Afghanistan … has close economic and trade ties with most of the SCO member states…. According to the Afghan Statistical Yearbook, in 2017-18, more than 87% of Afghanistan’s total imports were from SCO countries; and more than 57% of Afghanistan’s total exports were destined to SCO member states.”