THE SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM, EXTREMISM, AND SEPARATISM
Xing Guangcheng, D.Sc. (Political Science), professor, Deputy Director of the Institute for East European, Russian & Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Secretary General of the Chinese Association for East European, Russian & Central Asian Studies (China)
A joint statement adopted by the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states on 7 January, 2002 stipulates that “the recent events in Afghanistan convincingly show the correctness and far-sightedness of the policy chosen by the SCO to place top priority on cooperation among its member states in maintaining regional security and stability, as well as in the fight against the three major threats posed by terrorism, separatism, and extremism… Since we are Afghanistan’s close neighbors, we have been directly subjected to the terrorist and drug provocation coming from this country long before the events of 11 September and have warned the international community more than once about the danger of this provocation. This is why the SCO states took active part in the antiterrorist coalition and adopted measures to further intensify its antiterrorist activity.”1
According to Director of the Independent Institute of Politics and Law Alexander Lukin, when U.S. President George Bush says that Islamic terrorism is threatening world civilization, he is undoubtedly right. But America’s appeals to rally around the U.S. in the fight against this evil seem rather strange. For many countries and regional organizations have been waging this war long before the tragic events of 11 September forced Washington to seriously engage in this problem. A vivid example here is the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.2 After resolving the border question, the Shanghai Five not only did not disintegrate, but on the contrary formed a regional organization. It turned out that the states of the region also have other interests in common. These primarily include the joint fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism, as well as multilateral cooperation in political, economic, and cultural areas.3
Terrorism, extremism, and separatism pose a serious threat to the security and stability of Central Asia, China, and Russia. And for this reason, the SCO countries, placing top priority on combating these threats, have adopted a common stance and are coordinating their efforts to fight them.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a certain power vacuum formed in Central Asia. As Russian President Vladimir Putin noted, this vacuum is beginning to fill with religious extremism and terrorist organizations. But the situation is under control thanks to the joint activity of the five countries. This relates to fighting such phenomena as religious extremism, terrorism, and organized crime.4 In Central Asia, the problem of international terrorism and religious extremism is very urgent. The activation of extremist Islamic organizations and instability in Afghanistan are presenting a real threat to all the states of the region. Therefore, the participation of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan in the Shanghai Five is making it possible for them to involve Russia’s and China’s military and political resources in rebuffing these threats, which is very important keeping in mind the limited opportunities of Astana, Bishkek, and Dushanbe.5
Many documents adopted by the heads of the Shanghai Five set forth the strategy for conducting the struggle in this sphere. At the third summit of the Five, which was held on 3 July, 1998 in Almaty, the member states agreed that they must continue in-depth consultations on the problems of regional and Asian security, as well as on the joint struggle against ethnic separatism, religious extremism, international terrorism, and transnational crime. The statement adopted by the summit participants noted that the sides are unanimous in their opinion that any manifestation of national separatism, ethnic intolerance, and religious extremism is unacceptable. They will take measures to fight international terrorism, organized crime, arms smuggling, the illicit circulation of drugs and psychotropic substances, and other forms of international crime, and intercept attempts to use the territory of their states for organizing any activity detrimental to the sovereignty, security, and public order of any of the five states.6
The Bishkek declaration signed by the heads of the five member states in 1999 stated that the sides are aware of the importance of efficiently opposing international terrorism, the illicit circulation of drugs and psychotropic substances, arms smuggling, illegal migration, and other forms of transborder crime, as well as the manifestation of ethnic separatism and religious extremism, and for these reasons will conduct measures to develop practical interaction through competent departments ... and come to terms on corresponding joint measures during 1999 and 2000.7 The Dushanbe declaration of the heads of the five states adopted on 5 July, 2000 also places the emphasis on the same problems. In particular, this document confirms the resolution to jointly fight international terrorism, religious extremism, and ethnic separatism, which pose the main threat to regional security, stability, and development, as well as fight such criminal activity as illicit arms and drug circulation and illegal migration. In order to further develop the situation, there are plans to conduct training within the Shanghai Five aimed at fighting terrorist activity and violence.8
At the summit in Shanghai (15 June, 2001), a convention on the fight against terrorism, separatism, and extremism was also signed. As the ambassador at large of the Russian Foreign Ministry, A.V. Zmeevskiy, noted, this convention was the first step toward forming a contractual-legal basis for anticriminal interaction within the SCO. “The Shanghai convention is aimed at comprehensively counteracting terrorism, and the coercive manifestation of separatism and extremism. It is also very important that its provisions serve the international legal basis for developing bilateral cooperation among the member states in relevant areas. Another distinguishing feature of this contractual tool is institutionalizing cooperation by founding a Regional Antiterrorist Structure (RATS), which is called upon to become a multilateral mechanism for putting the Shanghai convention into practice. It is important that the newly created structure correlates this work with the universal system for fighting terrorism and coordinates its efforts with other interested regional structures functioning in this area.”9
Cooperation in the Fight Against International Terrorism
The terrorist acts committed in the U.S. on 11 September aroused a furor in the world community. The SCO was one of the first international organizations to respond to the events of 11 September.10 The prime ministers of its member states came forward with a special statement condemning this terrorist act, while the heads of the member states are maintaining close ties with the U.S. leadership, intend to cooperate with Washington in the fight against international terrorism, and are categorically against all its forms, confirming the utmost importance of international cooperation in this sphere.
As for the military campaign in Afghanistan, all the members of the organization support it. Expressing the common desire to wage a joint war against terrorism and Islamic extremism, all the states of the SCO supported Russia’s proposal to conduct an emergency meeting of leaders of the law enforcement agencies and special services of their countries. This meeting began on 11 October, 2001 in Bishkek. The leaders of the corresponding structures of Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan—members of the Bishkek Group—discussed the situation that has developed in Central Asia after the terrorist acts in New York and Washington, as well as questions relating to the fight against terrorism, separatism, and extremism. And the next day, the members of the Bishkek Group came forward with a statement in which they expressed their serious concern about the escalating tension in the region. The participants in the meeting decided to step up coordinated activity of the law enforcement agencies and special services of their states in regional and international security and the fight against terrorism and adopt a coordinated stance on these questions. They include “activating an exchange of operative and other information of mutual interest; conducting coordinated operative-preventive measures and special operations to warn of, identify, and intercept terrorist, separatist, and extremist crimes with the consent of the Sides; adopt measures to prevent the use of the territories of their countries for conducting activity detrimental to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, and public order of other member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; step up work to identify and eliminate channels of financing, material-technical, and other support of terrorist activity; adopt measures to accelerate the contractual-legal and organizational registration of the Regional Antiterrorist Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with its location in Bishkek; coordinate activity with international organizations and structures, and coordinate action within the framework of international organizations in the fight against terrorism.”11
The urgent problems of regional security and cooperation were discussed at a special meeting of the SCO member states’ foreign ministers (7 January, 2002, Beijing). This was the first meeting of the heads of the foreign policy departments of the organization’s member states after its creation in the current format and the events of 11 September. In a joint statement, they set forth their common stance on the post-crisis structure in Afghanistan, and on the role of the international community and the SCO itself in this process. “The six countries are unanimous in their opinion that maximum assistance must be rendered to settle the situation in Afghanistan in order to create conditions for normal development in the region and turn it into a state that has friendly relations with all its neighbors. At the same time, the fight against terrorism must go on, including in our countries. The SCO today is considered an important tool for rallying its members in their common struggle with this evil.”12 The member states uphold identical or very similar approaches to the prospects for a political settlement of the crisis in Afghanistan and the establishment of a post-conflict structure in the Central Asian region. As the Russian Foreign Ministry notes, the SCO countries intend to comprehensively promote rapid normalization and post-conflict rehabilitation of this long-suffering country under the auspices of the U.N., and create a reliable guarantee that Afghanistan will never again become a world hotbed of terrorism and intolerance. The organization members have no doubt that the SCO should occupy one of the key positions in resolving these problems. In this respect, within the framework of the assembly, there are plans to exchange opinions and draw up a coordinated policy with SCO partners on all these issues.13
The standpoint of the Chinese government is unequivocal. On 13 September, the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Guangya stated that China is willing to cooperate with every country in the fight against international terrorism.
All the SCO states intend to establish close cooperation in the fight against international terrorism both within the U.N., its Security Council, and other international institutions, as well as by means of bilateral channels. They believe that only by rallying the world community together will it be possible to deal an effectual blow to international terrorism.
The struggle with terrorism has stimulated the development and raised the role of the SCO. On 20 October, 2001, within the framework of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which was held in Shanghai, PRC Chairman Jiang Zemin and Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin emphasized the immense importance of the agreement signed in June 2001 at the meeting of SCO heads of state on cooperation in the fight against terrorism, separatism, and extremism, which creates a legal basis for fighting this evil. In this respect, Vladimir Putin and Jiang Zemin are in favor of adopting additional measures which will raise the organization’s role in the fight against terrorism.14 What is more, the fight against terrorism will stimulate the development of bilateral cooperation between China and other SCO participants. Beijing and Moscow are maintaining constant contact with respect to questions relating to the international fight against terrorism. The first meeting of the Russian-Chinese working group on counteracting terrorism was held on 28-29 November, 2001 in Beijing. The second meeting of this group will be held this year in Moscow. China and Kazakhstan have confirmed their common approach to the problem of opposing international terrorism in all its manifestations. The PRC and Kyrgyzstan will coordinate their efforts in the struggle with terrorism at a bilateral and multilateral level. On 5 December, 2001, these countries held political consultations on maintaining security in Central Asia and on development of the situation in Afghanistan. And the day before, on 4 December, 2001, the SCO Council of National Coordinators discussed important issues in Moscow regarding the fight against terrorism, including preparations for opening an Antiterrorist Center in Bishkek. The agreement on the regional antiterrorist structure was signed June this year at the summit in St. Petersburg.
Of course, the functions of the SCO in the fight against international terrorism, religious extremism, and separatism are sometimes duplicated by the activity of the Collective Security Treaty (CST). In our opinion, this will not impede the measures being conducted and designated under the CST, and will not interfere with its further progress. As D.A. Kalieva notes, military-political cooperation within the Shanghai Five is more lucrative. First, this organization only unites states which have the greatest interest in intercepting extremism and terrorism and other related threats to regional security and stability. The CST may not be efficient enough in this respect, despite the agreements on mutual assistance signed among its current members: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Second, China’s participation in the Shanghai Five is not only raising the military-political potential of the union, but is also making it possible for the Central Asian participants to use it as a tool for creating a balance between Russia and China, whose interests are represented in the region.15
China: Fighting Terrorists in Xinjiang—Part of the Fight Against International Terrorism
Terrorists, extremists, and separatists in Xinjiang are threatening the stability of the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and China’s integrity. Between 1990 and 2001, more than 200 terrorist acts have been registered in Xinjiang committed by the forces of the Eastern Turkistan movement and resulting in 162 deaths and injuries to more than 440 people. During recent years, the terrorist organizations of Eastern Turkistan have been responsible for explosions in barracks, buses, hospitals, and supermarkets in Xinjiang against the civilian population. The representatives of these terrorist forces are organizing disorder and revolts not only in China, but also beyond its borders. Using firearms or bombs, they have attacked the Chinese embassies and consulates in several countries. As a result of these violent acts, several Chinese businessmen, the employees of government agencies, and foreign policemen were killed.16 At the briefing organized on 11 October 2001, representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Sun Yuxi stated that the PRC is viewing the struggle against the Uighur separatists in the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region as part of the fight against international terrorism. Beijing has reliable proof that the Uighur separatists maintain close ties with international terrorist organizations, and are responsible for organizing explosions, murders, robberies, and other serious crimes. They are striving to create the state of Eastern Turkestan and are threatening not only China, but the entire Central Asian region.17 The XUAR Islamic separatists have close ties with international terrorist groups and are supported and financed by Osama bin Laden’s organizations. According to the Chinese government, bin Laden was planning to create an “Islamic state” in Xinjiang.18 Overthrowing the Taliban regime and approving a new government in Afghanistan meet China’s interests, and the PRC intends to comprehensively interact with Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism. On 24 January, 2002, in Beijing, Hamid Karzai stated that the Afghan transition government will no longer tolerate the existence of any terrorist forces in its country and will make every attempt to establish cooperation with China in the fight against the terrorists of the Eastern Turkistan movement.19
There Should Be No Double Standards in the Fight Against International Terrorism
After the events of 11 September, Beijing and Moscow are hoping for a change in the U.S.’s attitude toward the terrorist acts in Xinjiang and Chechnia. Before the terrorist acts in New York and Washington, the United States put pressure on China and Russia, motivating this with “the protection of human rights.” “The blows which the Chinese government dealt the terrorist forces of the Eastern Turkistan movement were aimed against terrorist crimes, and not against any nationality or religion. These measures are aimed at protecting the overall interests of the representatives of all nationalities and ensuring normal religious activity. The Chinese government is against terrorism in any form and against double standards in this area. Turning a blind eye to the terrorist forces of Eastern Turkistan will harm not only China, but also the Chinese people.”20 Against the background of increased interaction of the world community in the fight against terrorism, the Eastern Turkistan movement is trying under the banner of human rights, democracy, and protecting minority rights to continue its separatist activity. But this cannot change the essence of this particular terrorist organization.
Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that “political problems must be resolved by political means, but not with bandits who should be in prison… The blood of the Russian people killed in the blowing up of residential buildings is the same color as the blood of those killed during the terrorist acts of 11 September in New York. Terrorism is our common problem, which we must resolve responsibly without rush, panic, bargaining, and speculation.” Vladimir Putin warned the West about double standards in the fight against terrorism: “When we talk about double standards,” said the Russian President, “we mean the following: a universally known terrorist organization al-Qa‘ida functions in Afghanistan, and it was protected by the criminal Taliban regime. Everyone agrees to fight against this. The same al-Qa‘ida also functions in Chechnia, where it is protected by a different criminal regime.” He reminded everyone that the criminal regime in Chechnia has led to the brutal deaths of many thousands of civilians. “If this regime differs in any way from the Taliban, it is only in that it is probably even more bloody.” Russia is not turning away any organization, including the U.N., the Council of Europe, and the Red Cross, that wants to help resolve humanitarian problems, although the conflict in Chechnia “was, is, and will remain Russia’s internal problem.” If there are not enough legal ways to resolve it, it will be resolved using any other means possible.21 Now China and Russia are supporting the U.S.’s stance in the fight against international terrorism. They also want the West to abandon its double standards and take a fresh look at its attitude toward China’s and Russia’s fight against terrorism, separatism, and extremism in Xinjiang and Chechnia.
In an interview with Reuters (last September), a representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhu Bangjao, noted that the U.S. asked the PRC to render assistance in the fight against terrorism. In turn, Beijing is also asking Washington to support and show understanding of the Chinese people’s fight against internal terrorism and separatism. “There should be no double standards.”22 On 2 October, 2001, Zhu Bangjao stressed again that the United States asked China for help in fighting terrorism. In turn, the PRC has reason to ask the U.S. for support and understanding in its fight against terrorism and separatism. We should have no double standards, he said.23
An official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Iakovenko, stated that creating an essentially new global security system is of priority importance for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the fight against international terrorism. This system should be aimed at real threats to the contemporary world and based on an equivalent understanding of the character and essence of the processes going on in the world. “In so doing, the SCO member states are resolutely against new dividing lines forming in the world during the fight against terrorism.” Nor do the SCO member states accept any attempts to present antiterrorist activity as being opposed to any cultures, religions, or nations, nor should there be any double standards in this global struggle, or any attempts to divide terrorists into “bad” and “good.”24
The SCO states are staunchly in favor of counteracting terrorism. In so doing, this does not have any national or religious affiliation, and is not identified with a struggle against any religion, freedom of confession, or individual countries and nationalities. An efficient fight against terrorism should be ensured at all levels: global, regional, and national. This fight should be deprived of tendentiousness and double standards.
Nevertheless, the SCO member states understand that the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan does not mean automatic elimination of the international terrorist formations and groups, so they will continue their action aimed at neutralizing the existing terrorist threat to the utmost, including on the territory of all the SCO member states, and are calling on the international community to render them the relevant support. All the members of the organization are equally concerned about the terrorist threat and understand the actions of the member states to fight it, believing them to be an important component in the international struggle against terrorism. All the SCO member states indicate the pressing need for rapidly drawing up a universal convention on the struggle against international terrorism and a convention on the fight against acts of nuclear terrorism.25
The U.N. Must Play an Important Role in the Fight Against Terrorism
The governments of the SCO member states are hoping that the U.N. will step up its efforts in the fight against terrorism. On 18 September, 2001, Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with PRC Chairman Jiang Zemin. They discussed the development of the situation in the world after the well-known terrorist acts in the U.S., confirmed the categorical stance of both countries in opposing terrorism in all its manifestations, and expressed the need for rapidly developing international mechanisms for fighting this threat. Russia and China will continue close interaction within the U.N., its Security Council, and other international organizations and associations. Measures will be taken to upgrade the mechanism for fighting terrorism at a bilateral level.26 On 25 September, 2001, permanent representative of China in the U.N. Wang Yingfan noted that the U.N. must play an important role in the fight against terrorism, and that the PRC is willing to make its contribution to activating international cooperation in this fight.27 In November 2001, China adopted a resolution on joining the International Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and signed the International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
The SCO member states are unanimous in their opinion that a leading role in the international fight against terrorism should be played by the U.N. and its Security Council. All antiterrorist operations should meet the goals and principles of the U.N. Charter and other generally accepted norms of international law, their framework may not be expanded arbitrarily, and they must not be accompanied by interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. On the whole, they must meet the long-term interests of maintaining peace in the region and throughout the world.28
On the U.S.’s Military Presence in Central Asia
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have agreed to offer their infrastructures for deploying American servicemen and military hardware participating in the antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, representatives of the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department have stated more than once that the American presence in the Central Asian republics does not have to be restricted to the time-limit of the campaign in Afghanistan. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld presumes that the Pentagon will continue to closely cooperate with the countries of the region after the campaign is over. Many of these states are members of the NATO Partnership for Peace program and the United States established working relations with them long before the war in Afghanistan. “We have worked very consistently with several of these countries and will likely continue to do this in the future.”29 He admitted that Washington views this region as a “very important part of the world, important for us in particular, in which we have a great interest.”30 Speaker of the Russian State Duma Gennadi Seleznev believes that “everything must be done to make Central Asia a zone of Russia’s interests, and not of the U.S.”
The Russian leaders are continuing to cooperate actively with their Central Asian colleagues and are being assured that the American military will leave the region after the campaign in Afghanistan is over. Head of the Kyrgyzstan Foreign Ministry Muratbek Imanaliev stated that “immediately after completion of the military stage of the antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan, the U.S. will curtail its military presence in this Central Asian republic.”31
The PRC is not interested in a prolonged American presence in Central Asia close to its borders and does not support it. This threatens China’s interests.
1 “The Foreign Ministers of the SCO Member States Adopted a Joint Statement,” Renmin Ribao, 7 January, 2002.
2 See: A. Lukin, “China Advancing Bilateral Cooperation,” International Affairs, Vol. 48, No. 1, 2002, pp. 141-152.
3 See: Ibidem.
4 See: “Putin on the Shanghai Five,” Xinhua News Agency, 13 June, 2001.
5 See: D.A. Kalieva, “‘Shankhaiskaia piaterka’: sostoianie i perspektivy,” Tsentral’naia Azia: politika i ekonomika, No. 5 (6), May 2001, p. 17.
6 See: Renmin Ribao, 4 July, 1998.
7 See: Kazakhstanskaia pravda, 26 August, 1999.
8 See: Kazakhstanskaia pravda, 13 July, 2000.
9 A.V. Zmeevskiy, “Shankhaiskaia konventsia o borbe s terrorizmom, separatizmom i ekstremizmom,” Moskovskiy zhurnal mezhdunarodnogo prava, No. 4, 2001, p. 38.
10 See: “The Foreign Ministers of the SCO Member States Adopted a Joint Statement.”
11 Renmin Ribao, 13 October, 2001. See also: “Chleny ‘Bishkekskoi gruppy’ vyrazili ozabochennost eskalatsiei napriazhennosti v regione,” GazetaSNG.ru, 12 October, 2001.
12 SHOS okazyvaet real’noe vliianie na obstanovku v nashem regione, podcherknul ministr inostrannykh del Rossii Igor Ivanov [http://www.strana.ru/print/99683.html].
13 See: Igor Ivanov pribyl v Pekin dlia uchastiia v soveshchanii Shankhaiskoi organizatsii sotrudnichestva [http://www.strana.ru/print/99638.html].
14 See: “Predsedatel KNR Jiang Zemin i prezident Vladimir Putin podcherknuli neobkhodimost’ povysheniia roli Shankhaiskoi organizatsii sotrudnichestva,” Radio Station Maiak, 20 October, 2001.
15 See: D.A. Kalieva, op. cit.
16 See: “The Terrorist Forces of Eastern Turkistan Will Not Escape Responsibility for Their Crimes,” Renmin Ribao, 21 January, 2002.
17 See: “Kitai rassmatrivaet bor’bu s terroristami v Sintsziane chastiu bor’by s mezhdunarodnym terrorizmom,” RIA Novosti, 12 October, 2001.
18 “The Terrorist Forces of Eastern Turkistan Will Not Escape Responsibility for Their Crimes.”
19 See: Remin Ribao, 24 January, 2002; “Afghanistan nameren sotrudnichat’ s Kitaem v bor’be s terroristami iz dvizhenia ‘Vostochniy Turkistan,’” RIA Novosti, 24 January, 2002.
20 “The Terrorist Forces of Eastern Turkistan Will Not Escape Responsibility for Their Crimes.”
21 See: Prezidenty Rossii i Frantsii: v bor’be s terrorizmom ne mozhet byt’ dvoinykh standartov [http://www.strana.ru/print/102363.html].
22 MIGnews.com, 18 September, 2001.
23 “Predstavitel’ MID Kitaia raz’iasnil pozitsiiu strany po voprosu podderzhki SShA v bor’be s mezhdunarodnym terrorizmom,” Ekho Moskvy, 2 October, 2001.
24 RIA Novosti, 4 January, 2002.
25 See: “The Foreign Ministers of the SCO Member States Adopted a Joint Statement.”
26 RIA Novosti, 18 September, 2001.
27 Xinhua News Agency, 25 September, 2001.
28 See: “The Foreign Ministers of the SCO Member States Adopted a Joint Statement.”
29 Pentagon prodolzhit tesnoe sotrudnichestvo so stranami Tsentral’noi Azii [http://www.strana.ru/print/105865.html].
30 Rossia sokhraniaet svoe vliianie na Tsentral’nuiu Aziiu [http://www.strana.ru/print/103614.html].