Iran’s entry into SCO opens gates for Middle East, says Uzbekistan ambassador to India Dilshod Akhatov

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Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to India Dilshod Akhatov has said that Iran’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or SCO opens the gates for the “middle East” even as a “number of Arab countries are showing great interest in joining the SCO activities as partners”. Uzbekistan is set to host the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit later this week in which 15 world leaders, including host Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, will be present. One of the key outcomes of the summit will be an expanded SCO, with Iran as its member.

Speaking to our diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal at Samarkand, Dilshod said, ‘Uzbekistan suggests the SCO countries to rethink the value of multilateral cooperation in a period of geopolitical and economic upheavals at the global level”. This year India will be handed over the Presidency of the grouping. The Uzbekistan Ambassador highlighted that India will be “able to bring new dynamics to the SCO’s activities and offer new horizons for its further development.”

WION: What will be Uzbekistan’s key focus areas at the summit? If you can list out the priorities.

Dilshod Akhatov: Please, allow me, at the beginning of our conversation, to draw the attention of your audience, and readers to the features and international significance of the upcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The SCO summit in Samarkand on September 15-16th is the largest international political forum in Eurasia in recent years. For the first time in the last three years, the leaders of the SCO countries will gather together in person, this is a unique opportunity to open a discussion of bilateral, regional and global issues that have accumulated during the pandemic.  

The special flavour of the summit is given by the participation of invited guests, including the Presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan, as well as the Prime Minister of Armenia.

The Samarkand summit is the first meeting of the Organization under the Chairmanship of Uzbekistan during the Presidency of Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Our country, under the leadership of Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is pursuing a foreign policy course open to expansive cooperation.

Returning to your question, I want to emphasise that pragmatism, dynamism and initiative have become a kind of “calling card” of Uzbek diplomacy in recent years. These accents are also embodied in the Strategy of Uzbekistan’s Chairmanship in the SCO.

Therefore, due to the effective Chairmanship of Tashkent in the SCO, key decisions and agreements are being made at the Samarkand summit, which is designed to determine the future vectors of the Organization’s development.

On the eve of the SCO summit, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev explained in detail the main directions of our country’s Chairmanship in this Organization in his conceptual article, which was published by the leading media of the United States, Asian and European states.

“Accepting responsible mission of Chairmanship in the SCO, the Republic of Uzbekistan has relied on the strategy of advancing the development of the Organization by opening up new horizons for cooperation and launching usage of untapped reserves that each of its members has.

Our slogan is “The SCO is strong if each of us is strong”. Implementing this, we have made serious efforts to make the Organization even stronger from the inside and more attractive from the outside to our international partners”, underlined President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

The article also states that at the platforms of more than eighty major events held during the year, a comprehensive agenda was formed for the SCO – starting from the issues of further expanding cooperation in security, strengthening transport and economic connectivity and positioning the Organization in the international arena up to the search for new ways and points for development.

For successful transformation and growth, the SCO needs new ideas and initiatives. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Uzbekistan, which has been chairing this Organization for the past year, has assumed this responsible mission.

Tashkent’s conceptual approach to the question of what the SCO should be in a new era can be seen in the priorities it has put forward – trade, industrial and technological cooperation, strengthening transport and economic interconnectedness, innovation, digital transformation and a green economy.

Uzbekistan suggests the SCO countries rethink the value of multilateral cooperation in a period of geopolitical and economic upheavals at the global level.

Therefore, it is quite reasonable to expect that at the Samarkand SCO summit, the President of Uzbekistan will make a number of breakthrough initiatives and proposals designed to significantly update the agenda and modernize the activities of this Organization.

WION: How much of a proud moment is it for your country, given the leaders of India, Russia, and China all will be present? What key outcomes can one expect?

Dilshod Akhatov: This is a very important event for our country and its international prestige. Please note that the leaders of 15 Eurasian countries will meet at the Samarkand SCO Summit. Therefore, it is not surprising that this meeting is the focus of the international media and the expert-analytical community.

Of course, the full-time participation at the summit of the leaders of China, Russia, India, Iran and Turkey increases interest. But there is another – actually more important side, which comes down to the following:

a) The SCO membership will be replenished. Thus, Iran’s upcoming entry into the Organization as a full member opens the gates of the Middle East to the SCO. Moreover, a number of Arab countries are showing great interest in joining the SCO activities as partners;

b) The leaders will make a historic decision to improve the SCO, the implementation of which is designed to adapt it to changing realities, as well as make the Organization even stronger from the inside and attractive from the outside.

WION: How much focus will be on connectivity?

Dilshod Akhatov: President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in his article, which we mentioned above, made a special emphasis on the fact that global climate shocks, growing scarcity of natural and water resources, the decline in biodiversity, and spread of dangerous infectious diseases have exposed the vulnerability of our societies as never before.

They lead to the destruction of existential common goods, threatening the basis of people’s lives and reducing sources of income. In these circumstances, it is obvious that no country alone can hope to avoid or cope with these global risks and challenges. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev believes that there is only one way out of the dangerous spiral of problems in an interconnected world where we all live today – through constructive dialogue and multilateral cooperation based on consideration and respect for the interests of everyone. It is exactly at the time of crisis when all the countries – whether they are large, medium or small by size – must put aside their narrow interests and focus on such mutual interaction, unite and multiply the common efforts and possibilities to counter the threats and challenges to peace, security and sustainable development that are related to each of us.

Effective international cooperation makes the world more stable, predictable and prosperous. This is the most viable, accessible and closest way to solving common problems of our time as well as a universal insurance policy against future challenges and shocks. This is the position of the New Uzbekistan.

WION: You hand over the presidency this year to India. How do you see India at SCO?

Dilshod Akhatov: During the upcoming SCO Summit in Samarkand Uzbekistan will transfer the chairmanship to India.

India’s membership in the SCO serves to enhance the international weight of the Organization and to ensure stability and dynamic development of the vast region. A country with an ancient history and a dynamically developing modern economy, with a population of about 1.4 billion people, is able to bring new dynamics to the SCO’s activities and offer new horizons for its further development. Your country provided all possible support to our initiatives and proposals during the chairmanship of Uzbekistan.  

This fully meets the high level of the Uzbek-Indian strategic partnership. In this context, I would like to assure the commitment of Uzbekistan to support India during its chairmanship. We wish great success to India’s upcoming chairmanship in the Organization and look forward to new initiatives and steps aimed at improving the well-being of people of the SCO member states.

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