By Somar Wijayadasa*
NEW YORK (IDN) — Despite the mayhem around the world—war in Ukraine, geopolitical confrontations, myriad of sanctions, energy crisis, hyperinflation, climate catastrophes, and unrelenting health issues—a few countries in the Eastern hemisphere held two noteworthy summits perhaps in an effort to bring some sense and stability to our deeply convoluted world.
A closer look at these two significant events prove that a tectonic shift is taking place in international relations with emphasis on creating a multipolar world order.
“On the way to a multipolar world”
Russia hosted its Seventh Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, from September 5-8. Focused on international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin established the forum in 2015 to boost investments into Russia’s Far Eastern regions.
Since its inception, more than 2,700 investment projects have been implemented, and created over 120,000 jobs. This year’s forum included more than 90 business events and attracted more than 5,000 visitors from 67 countries.
There were discussions on diverse topics such as investment and trade in the Arctic and Far Eastern regions of Russia, the electric power industry in the Far East, the promotion of Russian software, mineral resources and mineral processing, and aircraft construction.
Saying that the economy of Asian countries is growing faster than Western countries, Putin emphasized that “countries in the Asia-Pacific region have become new centers of economic and technological growth, attracting human resources, capital and manufacturing”.
During Putin stated in his speech at the EEF that “over the past 10 years, the GDP of Asian countries has grown annually by approximately 5%, while the world’s – by 3%; the GDP of the US – by 2%, the EU by 1.2%”. Putin is confident that the share of Asian economies in global GDP will grow from 37.1% in 2015 to 45% in 2027.
Iran signed 17 documents on cooperation between Iran and Uzbekistan increasing their annual bilateral trade to $1 billion. Azerbaijan, Russia, and Iran agreed to develop the International North–South Transport Corridor linking Russia to the Persian Gulf.
The EEC Forum ended with nearly $50 billion in deals.
Pointing out that “Western countries have undermined the foundations of the global economic system forged over the centuries”, Putin told participants that the outdated uni-polar model is being replaced by a new world order based on the fundamental principles of justice and equality, recognizing the rights of all countries and people on a sovereign path of development.
Without referring to the hundreds of billions of Russia’s dollars frozen in the US and other foreign countries, Putin underscored, “There is a loss of confidence in the dollar, the euro and the pound sterling as currencies in which to conduct transactions, hold assets and reserves”. Putin believes that “this tendency pushes Russia and many other nations to switch to other currencies, most notably the Chinese yuan”.
The world is gradually moving away from using such unreliable, compromised currencies, Putin emphasized, adding that even US allies are cutting their dollar assets.
Reiterating that International law has been repeatedly trampled on, Putin remarked: “Now many people claim that Russia is violating international law. I think that this is absolutely untrue. Who started the war in Iraq without any UN sanctions? Who destroyed Yugoslavia under plausible pretexts? Who unleashed a war in the center of Europe by bombing Belgrade? No one remembered the principles of international law then”.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
The SCO held ist summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan from September 15 to 16.
Created by Russia and China in 2011 as a counterweight to US influence, SCO is the world’s largest regional, political, economic and security organization aimed at fostering trust and developing economic and humanitarian ties in Asia. All its relations are built on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s interests and mutual benefit.
Its members are China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The observer countries are Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia, and its partner countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.
It is noteworthy that four SCO members wield nuclear weapons, and are partners in China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative, the massive infrastructure project that stretches from East Asia to Europe.
In terms of geographic scope and population, SCO covers approximately 60% of the area of Eurasia, 40% of the world population, and more than 30% of global GDP.
The current SCO summit in Samarkand finalized the admission of Iran, and granted the status of a dialogue partner to Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Belarus applied for full membership in the SCO.
Four SCO members are in the BRICS alliance that is also poised to expand in 2023 as Iran and Argentina officially applied for its membership, and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt have shown interest in joining the bloc.
On the final day of the summit, more than 40 agreements were signed and adopted the
Recognizing the threat of chemical and biological terrorism, the SCO members called for compliance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons. They stressed the importance of the early destruction of all declared stockpiles of chemical weapons.
The SCO reaffirmed its commitment to a more representative, democratic, just, and a multipolar world order that is based on the universally recognized principles of international law, multilateralism, equal, common, indivisible, comprehensive, and sustainable security.
The grouping also called for creating a transparent international energy market and reducing the existing trade barriers.
Addressing the meeting, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin stressed the deepening economic ties between China and Russia, noting bilateral trade exceeded $140 billion last year. “I am convinced”, he said, “that in the near future we will increase our annual trade turnover to $200 billion or more”.
Referring to protests that toppled unpopular regimes in the former Soviet Union and the Middle East, China’s President Xi Jinping urged SCO members to strive to “prevent foreign forces from staging colour revolutions in our countries, and offered to train 2,000 police officers, to set up a regional counterterrorism training center and strengthen law enforcement capacity building.
Xi invited SCO members to join China’s Global Security Initiative, a concept that includes the idea that no country should strengthen its own security at the expense of others.
Saying that it is also aimed at “effectively responding to non-traditional security challenges”, Xi added “We need to crack down on the three forces of evil—religious extremism, ethnic separatism and international terrorism.
Xi also said that the “regional countries must firmly uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on international law, promote the common values of all mankind, abandon zero-sum games and bloc politics”.
The SCO plans to prepare a single list of terrorist, separatist and extremist groups whose activities are banned on the territories of the member states. This move aims to counter the threat posed by them to the region.
Most significantly, during President Vladimir Putin’s bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi the concerns about the War in Ukraine were unavoidable.
During his meeting with Xi, Putin praised China’s “balanced position” on the Ukraine war, and acknowledged that Xi had “questions and concerns” over Russia’s faltering invasion of Ukraine.
During his meeting with Putin, Modi said, “Today’s era is not of war” and emphasized the importance of “democracy, dialogue and diplomacy” and the need to “move onto a path of peace” in Ukraine.
Putin’s response to both Xi and Modi was “I know your position and concerns on the conflict in Ukraine. We want all of this to end as soon as possible”.
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.—Winston Churchill.
* Somar Wijayadasa, an international lawyer was a Faculty Member of the University of Sri Lanka (1967-1972), worked for IAEA and FAO (1973-1980), delegate of UNESCO to the UN General Assembly (1980-1995), and was the Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations from 1995-2000. [IDN-InDepthNews – 20 September 2022]
Photo: Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Uzbekistan 2022. CC BY 4.0
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