PM Imran Khan
PM Imran Khan addressing the virtual Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit 2020 on November 10. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called for enhanced cooperation to fight the coronavirus pandemic and debt relief for developing nations while highlighting the need for respecting each other’s territorial integrity at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) virtual summit on Tuesday.

He was addressing the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) via video conference, attended by all member states. Russia President Vladimir Putin, who presided over the meeting, had extended the invitation to the premier.

Khan began his speech stressing that the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging across the world, devastating economies, claiming lives and disrupting livelihoods and said that mutual efforts by the SCO states can be effective in combatting the virus. SCO members, Pakistan and China, are collaborating in vaccine development with phase 3 trials successfully underway, PM Khan said, adding that “Pakistan deeply appreciated China’s handling of the virus” as well as the “material and technical assistance extended by China to other countries including Pakistan”.

Pakistan’s COVID-19 strategy

Khan informed the SCO head of states that “Pakistan is open to sharing its experience in effectively fighting the virus by keeping total cases and fatalities relatively low”. The smart lockdown strategy and financial support to vulnerable people prevented the rapid community spread and protected poor from the fallout of the lockdown and also helped stabilise the economy, he said.

Debt relief

Appreciating the support by G20 and other global institutions, he called for global debt relief for the developing world that helps create fiscal space to mitigate the impact of pandemic and achieve sustained development.

Economic development

Pakistan’s foreign policy goals are focused on regional connectivity and economic integration, he said. The SCO forum can play a pivotal role in enhancing economic collaboration with support from Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Belt, and Road Initiative (BRI). “China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship BRI project, is poised to play a vital role” in regional development.

Territorial integrity, sovereignty and stability

He recalled that SCO was established to ensure security and maintain, join forces to counter emerging challenges and threats and enhance trade and cultural cooperation. Khan said that it is vital for all SCO members to respect each other’s territorial integrity, sanctity of borders, and people’s right for self-determination and added that “unilateral and illegal measures to change the status of disputed territories in violation of the UNSC resolutions adversely affect regional environment”.

Terrorism and Islamophobia

Pakistan has been in the forefront of struggle against terrorism and “our resolve to continue this fight remain undeterred” he said. “It is wrong to use terrorism related allegations as a political tool to malign and target any country, religion or race… and on the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazism and fascism, we must work to ensure against the resurgence of such destructive ideologies and oppose extremism xenophobic tendencies and Islamophobia.” He urged SCO members to foster a culture of peace, fraternity and harmony.

Data security and climate change

Speaking on the topic of data security, he extended Pakistan’s support to China’s Global Initiative on Data Security. He also insisted the member states to
pool in efforts to fight threat posed by climate change and to fulfil commitments made in Paris agreement.

6 points raised by PM Khan

Pakistan PM Khan proposed six strategies to galvanize efforts through the SCO summit for better connectivity and development:

1. Create an SCO knowledge bank of best practices to fight COVID-19 to guide countries through the second wave and beyond.

2. SCO action plan to mitigate the effects of adverse effects on economy of coronavirus

3. COVID-19 vaccine must be viewed as a global public good and should be affordable and accessible to all.

4. More measures by G20 to meet common challenges like climate change, widening inequality within and among nations, poverty, disease, hunger and the illicit movement of money from developing world to offshore bank accounts to rich countries.

5. Formulate a multi-year SCO youth strategy with a focus on building partnerships among educational institutions.

6. Develop SCO partnership for technology offering scholarships, exchange programs for youth in the scientific field.

SCO’s major objectives include strengthening regional peace, security and stability, and creating a framework for effective cooperation in political, cultural, trade and economy and other fields.

Besides Pakistan, SCO’s current members include China, Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Since becoming a member in 2017, Pakistan had been actively contributing to the promotion of SCO’s multi-sectoral agenda through participation in various SCO mechanisms.