Despite having key place in South, Central and East Asia security and politics, Afghanistan has not received full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Take it as a failure of the Afghan officials or members of the SCO, but Afghanistan should have been member of the organization long ago, because the long-troubled Afghan war has also created challenges for the neighboring countries. Stability, security and prosperity of the region depend on Afghanistan. If Kabul was stable the regional countries will live in peace and harmony; otherwise, violence would spell disasters in the neighborhood.
In a situation of prolonged war and instability, the SCO member states have focused too narrowly on security of Afghanistan. Though, regional stability had grabbed attention of the organization but the members played no or little role in stability of the war-hit country. Cooperation in security, economic and humanitarian areas remained low. Result of this cold-shoulder response is increase in insurgency and emergence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. If the SCO had granted full membership to Afghanistan and supported the country in security and economic spheres, the situation on the ground would have been very different now. There would have been more jobs, created by inter and intra-regional projects such as TAPI gas pipeline, uniformity in stand against extremism and terrorism and enhanced border cooperation. Improved border cooperation is not only needed to prevent insurgents from crossing the frontiers but also the narcotics and human traffickers. Drastic increase in opium production has been reported last year. The production will continue to increase if heed was not paid. The problem could not be resolved through pledges but practical steps are needed. Unfortunately, the steps are not taken yet.
Lack of cooperation among the SCO members is clearly visible. That’s why China is upset by growing extremism in Xinjiang. Likewise, Russia and Central Asian Republics are in panic due to growing power of the Islamic State in the neighborhood. Furthermore, insecurity in Afghanistan is hampering important regional projects. These all are the outcomes of disheartening performance of the SCO and absence of coordination between the members.
Since the situation in the region had taken an ugly turn. Therefore, the cooperation organization should review its policies and focus on coordination and joint efforts in the areas of security, economic, culture, education, health and others. As a first step, the SCO should grant full membership to Afghanistan because without having Kabul on board in the decision making process there will be no sign of improvement in regional security and politics. The SCO’s secretary general has confirmed request of the Afghan government for full membership. However, it is unclear that when Afghanistan will get status of the SCO member. The sooner the Afghanistan gets the membership is better.