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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 622, 7 July 2023

Shehbaz Sharif in SCO summit: Three Takeaways



Three takeaways analyzed from the statements made by PM Shehbaz Sharif and his vision and hopes from the SCO countries.

D. Suba Chandran
Professor
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore

What happened
On 4 July, the 23rd summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State (CHS) was hosted by India in virtual mode. Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and other leaders attended the summit virtually for the event. Iran was admitted as the ninth member to the regional bloc. At the same time, Belarus signed a Memorandum that will set in motion its procedure for membership which will be completed by the 2024 summit.
Prior to the online summit, the Foreign Office of Pakistan had said that the PM’s attendance “illustrates the high importance that Pakistan attaches to the SCO, as an important forum for regional security and prosperity, and enhanced engagement with the region.” Shehbaz Sharif reaffirmed his belief in the SCO, stating that the meeting came at a “critical juncture” given the changing geopolitical landscape. He called the bloc a beacon for stability, security, peace, and progress. He also welcomed the inclusion of Iran to the bloc.

Following are the stance Pakistan took on the issue of terrorism, CPEC and Afghanistan

On terrorism and counter terrorism
CPM Shehbaz Sharif stated that the “hydra-headed monster of terrorism and extremism, whether committed by individuals, societies or states must be fought with full vigor and conviction.” This statement came after the Indian Prime Minster pointed to the alleged use of cross-border terrorism by some countries as “an instrument of their policies” and providing a safe haven for terrorists.
 
Emphasis on regional connectivity while prioritizing China
The reference was made to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the SCO summit carried forward the sentiments expressed at the Goa conclave in May. At the Goa conclave, Jaishankar had stressed that while “connectivity is good for progress, it cannot violate the integrity and sovereignty of states.”. Shehbaz Sharif said that CPEC would bring prosperity and connectivity to the region, terming it as a “game-changer.” He also said that Pakistan’s location would create the bridge connecting Europe and Central Asia with China, South Asia, and the Middle East. Moreover, and announced that Pakistan was planning to hold a regional conference on connectivity later this year. 
 
Reiterates the need to engage with Afghanistan 
At the summit, PM Sharif urged for collective action from the international community to “meaningfully engage” with the crisis-torn country. He pointed to the global standstill on relations with Afghanistan, stating: “The cascade of unmet expectations has meant that critical support needed by Afghanistan to ward off a grave humanitarian crisis, prevent an economic meltdown and to combat terrorism has been withheld.” Additionally, he called on the government in Afghanistan to ensure that Afghan soil is not used as a platform for terrorism. Since the Taliban takeover, the instability in Afghanistan has been a focal point of concern for peace in the subcontinent. PM Sharif stressed that a stable and secure Afghanistan will bring economic benefits to the SCO region, apart from contributing to global peace and progress. Pakistan has been lobbying for the world to engage with the Taliban government in Afghanistan to stave off the humanitarian crisis facing the country.


Focus for the day 
Quran burning in Sweden: Pakistan passes resolution condemning Sweden
On 6 July, The Express Tribune reported that the joint sitting in parliament passed a resolution condemning desecration of religious elements, demanding the Swedish government to take “appropriate steps”. The resolution was moved by Parliamentary Affairs minister Javed Abbasi condemning the act of desecration of the Quran in Sweden and stated that: “This House believes in respecting all religions, beliefs and their holy books.” It resolved that the international community must take measures to promote interfaith harmony and urged the Swedish authorities to take action against the perpetrators. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stated that the desecration of the Quran in Sweden was unacceptable for Muslims. Additionally, he called for a nationwide protest to observe: “Youm-e-Taqaddus-e-Quran” (Quran Sanctity Day) and demand accountability from the Swedish government.  ("Parliament condemns Islamophobic act,The Express Tribune, 6 July 2023)
 

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