The 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit will be held later this week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. According to SCO Secretary General Vladimir Norov, approaches to settle the Afghan issue will be outlined during the summit.
Restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan, an SCO observer state, has always topped the agenda of the regional bloc. Thanks to the joint efforts by the international community and SCO member states in particular, peace has eventually become possible in the war-torn nation, though uncertainties still exist.
Political reconciliation process
Peace talks on Afghan issues were finally launched and progress has been made gradually with the mediation of SCO member states.
For instance, the first meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan-United States-China Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) was held in Islamabad on January 11, 2016, in an attempt to revive the peace process.
Since then, five coordination meetings within five months have been held, helping to create conditions for direct dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which have long refused to directly talk to the "U.S.-backed" government led by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
The push for peace comes as the Taliban, ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001, have staged almost daily attacks and are in control of or contesting districts across nearly half the country.
In January 2019, the United States, led by Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, first engaged in talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
During a visit to Tajikistan last month, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged all parties and factions in Afghanistan to reach extensive political consensuses through inclusive dialogue and facilitate the "Afghan-led, Afghan-owned" political process.
Fight against 'three evils'
Since its establishment, the SCO has always maintained the security and stability of the region as its priority, and called for a severe crackdown on "three Evils", namely terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
Afghanistan is fighting on the frontline in the war against terrorism. "We fight and die on behalf of our neighbors," said Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in an interview with Xinhua.
Practical work is being conducted on the basis of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS). In order to improve practical skills, joint anti-terrorism exercises are conducted through law enforcement agencies and the armed forces.
China has offered to train 2,000 law enforcement officers for all parties in the next three years through the China National Institute for SCO International Exchange and Judicial Cooperation and other platforms to enhance law enforcement capacity building, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the 18th SCO Summit in Qingdao, Shandong Province, on June 10.
Meanwhile, the RATS SCO has limited access to 80,000 Internet resources containing 500,000 materials, and stopped the activities of 360 participants in Internet communities related to terrorism and religious extremism over the past years.
Reconstruction, development and better future
The SCO provides a springboard for Afghanistan to participate in regional integration and improve connectivity with neighboring countries. In recent years, SCO member states have coordinated their development strategies for the joint building of the Belt and Road, a China-proposed initiative aiming to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes.
Take China-Afghanistan cooperation as a typical example of SCO's contributions in this regard. Statistics show that China has trained over 2,300 Afghans specializing in various fields since 2015, and the number of trainees is set to be at least 1,000 this year.
On top of that, China granted scholarships to over 150 Afghan students in 2017, and currently, there are 307 Afghan students studying in China.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan stands as a shortcut connecting Central Asia with South and West Asia, enjoying natural advantages to better integrate into regional cooperation.
SCO member states have signed the Agreement on Facilitation of International Road Transport. A transportation line of 9,300 kilometers will be opened and available to its member states by 2020, and other regional countries are welcomed to join in the future.
This year marks the centenary of Afghanistan's independence.
Afghanistan is at a critical moment, said Wang Yi when meeting the press on the sidelines of the second session of the 13th National People's Congress in March.
As the SCO Summit in Bishkek is just around the corner, how will the organization help the war-torn nation see the "potential dawn for peace" and better manage the "build-up of risks and challenges"?