By Ramesh Nath Pandey –
The “Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions” signed in April 1996 with a limited objective between China, Russia and Four countries of central Asia -Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic & Uzbekistan signaled a shift in trend in international relations. It slowly evolved as “Shanghai Group of 5” which in 2005 became the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Very soon, India, Pakistan, Iran tried to be associated with this organization well realizing its long-term importance and significance. But Nepal due to its internal security problem and political instability had no desire to expand its international horizon. We were simply not in a mood to take new initiatives. After being appointed foreign minister in Feb. 2005, I had a vision to re-energize Nepal’s international relations exercise by associating ourselves with relevant and useful regional and international multi-lateral organizations. In this context, we got interested with the SCO realizing both its political, strategic and economic importance. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), we began internal homework on prospects and possibilities and the benefits for Nepal after joining this organization. We immediately initiated certain diplomatic moves.
In June 2005, just after one month of the SCO granting Observer status to India, Pakistan and Iran at its Summit held in Kazakhstan, I had the rare honour to meet President of the People’s Republic of China Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People. I acquainted the Chinese President on Nepal’s desire to be part of the SCO. He responded very positively. He even suggested to send a formal letter of request. Consequently, we sent an official letter in September 2005 explaining our earnest desire to be an Observer of the SCO. A few weeks later, I met the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan H.E. Kassymzhomart Tokayev, and Foreign Minister of Tajikastan H.E. Talbak Nazrov at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. In fact, I recall we had hosted them both at the office of Nepal’s Permanent Mission in New York. During discussions, apart from other issues I had apprised both of them of our strong desire to join the SCO. I had told them that we are economically and strategically interdependent. Both the foreign ministers were very positive.
After one month of that fruitful meeting, during my visit to Moscow in October 2005, I again repeated our interest to join the SCO with my counterpart the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation H.E. Sergey Victorovich Lavrov. I had informed the Russian Foreign Minister that the SCO indicates a new model in contemporary international relations and Nepal would not want to remain separated from this. In addition to other things such as technical aid, economic and financial cooperation, trade, human resource development, we could also get access to energy from Central Asian Republics. He was also positive and even told me, “the distance of geography is being rapidly reduced.”
After 10 years of hard effort, we have finally become a dialogue partner of the SCO. In retrospect, it is a matter of great satisfaction for me personally. Lately, we have also been part of the AIDB. However, we must not make our participation in the Summits and other meetings merely as rituals. These are just beginnings. We ought to endeavor to derive maximum concrete of our involvement in these institutions and organizations. We must seize the opportunity that we have got from these organizations.
Writer is a former foreign minister.