What does Belarus get from joining SCO?

Emblem of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization 

Emblem of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization  / yuz.uz

"It's a historic moment—Belarus has become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization," Lukashenka's telegram channel dramatically described the signing of documents on the country's accession to the SCO in Astana. Is Belarus's accession to yet another political association, which also includes Asian countries: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, and Iran, a truly "historic moment"?

Why is Belarusian propaganda so happy, and what bonuses does Lukashenka expect from joining the SCO? Euroradio asked political analyst Artsiom Shraibman.

"The opportunity to meet influential leaders of other countries more often"

According to the expert, the SCO is similar to some post-Soviet integration associations.

"This is a platform that Lukashenka needs, first of all, to have a platform to meet with other leaders of influential countries. In this case, first of all, China."

The analyst says that the purpose of joining the SCO is to deepen diplomatic relations.

"The authorities believe that if we join the organisation, which is actually headed by China, with full rights, this will increase the prestige of Belarus in the eyes of the Chinese leadership. It may also allow us to monetise new opportunities, encourage the Chinese to invest in Belarus, help diversify trade, etc. But in fact, there are not many serious meanings here."

Lukashenka is trying to show everyone, including his audience, the West, Russia, and other countries, that he is not isolated, is in demand and legitimate.

"With the closure of the Western vector of foreign policy, nothing has changed, and they are ready to accept it on other platforms. That is, in general, this is such a big PR stunt. I see nothing more; there is no direct connection with more opportunities for Belarus. It cannot be said that the fact that Lukashenka has become a full member of the SCO will somehow contribute to the automatic growth of trade turnover. This is simple diplomacy and an opportunity to see influential leaders of other countries one step closer and more often," Shraibman concludes. 

"The mutual extradition of people from the territory of the SCO countries is obvious."

Meanwhile, joining the SCO opens up opportunities for Belarus to cooperate in various fields, not only political and economic. Lawyer Mary Kolesava-Hudzilina pointed this out on Facebook.

"Although they say that [the SCO] is not a military alliance, its members regularly participate in joint anti-terrorist exercises. Within the SCO, from 2005 to 2021, ten peace mission military exercises were held, and six times joint exercises of intelligence and law enforcement agencies were held." 

Belarus can learn from China's experience in information security, the creation of so-called "smart cities," and digital control over citizens.

"China is already the main supplier of equipment and technology for Belarus after the imposition of sanctions. The regime will most likely introduce surveillance systems for citizens."

Another area of cooperation is the exchange of legal information to develop cooperation within the SCO.

"As I understand it, the mutual extradition of people from the territory of the SCO countries is obvious. For example, Kazakhstan and India are dangerous if a citizen of Belarus is hiding from persecution.

The regional anti-terrorist structure (RATS) will also operate on Belarus's territory. It will have a single database of terrorist organizations and extremists and assist law enforcement agencies.

International lawyer Ales Mikhalevich does not entirely agree with Mary Kolesava-Hudzilina.

"I think that [joining the SCO] could lead to closer cooperation in exchanging information, but there is no danger in the short term. The creation of stable databases is fraught with various problems, starting with determining the language in which the database will be maintained."

The lawyer said that China really has something to share with its partners regarding digital control over citizens.

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