1. What was the most remarkable event in your area of expertise this year? (beyond COVID-19)
It is really extremely hard to answer this question as this year perhaps everything has been connected to COVID-19. As I am mostly researching China’s foreign policy on security issues relating to Middle East and Eurasia, maybe the most remarkable negotiations in this field were talks between China and Iran on signing the 25-year comprehensive cooperation plan. On June 21, 2020, Iranian cabinet of ministers during the meeting chaired by President Rouhani approved the final draft of the document. The Iranian side mentioned that it hopes that China and Iran will sign the deal till March 2021. I do believe that it will be signed if the US does not change its policy towards Iran.
Thus, if the US ease the pressing under the presidency of Biden and even return to the JCPOA, maybe the Iranian parliament will not confirm the Sino-Iranian agreement, as there are some voices in Iran who say that by doing so Iran would fall into dependence on China. But in this situation Iranian government sees the signing of the aforementioned agreement as the only way for going out from the total political and economic isolation with the help of Beijing. If China-Iran deal is signed, Tehran will appear in the political camp of China. Beijing will get a great opportunity to use Iran’s strategic location for strengthening its role in the Middle East and developing Belt and Road’s transportation links in the region. By strengthening their cooperation in the Middle East, Tehran and Beijing will reduce Washington’s influence in the region.
2.What was a success story of this year in your area of expertise/field of work?
Maybe the biggest success story of this year was that China and India could prevent further escalation of the situation in the Galwan district and find ways for peaceful talks, as a total war between these Asian great powers, which have nuclear arsenals, could become a real disaster not only for the region, but also for the world. It was good, that problem was solved during the meeting between ministers of foreign affairs of Shanghai Cooperation Organization in September, which took place in Moscow. It means, that SCO continues to play an important role and it contributes to the strengthening of stability and security between its member states.
In this context, it is also worth mentioning that after the clashes between Indian and Chinese troops on July 8, I published an article on the IIP Peace blog titled “New Geopolitical Challenges and the SCO: Sino-Indian Border Clashes and Covid-19”. In this article I recommended, that “the SCO start mediation to ease tensions between China and India and provide a platform for China and India to engage in negotiations and help to find a peaceful solution to their territorial disputes”.
3. What challenges should be addressed in first place in your area of expertise next year?
Unfortunately, during this year even during the outbreak of Covid-19 the world suffered from several wars, which took place in different regions. Several states even used terrorists to advance their aims. The first thing, which must be addressed in the coming year is preventing wars and solving frozen conflicts as they can burn every moment as it happened in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). This war brought suffering to people of this region where thousands of them died during the bombardment of heavily populated cities and military clashes.
The best indicator of a lowered level of global security is that even one of the safest cities in the world -Vienna – appeared under the attack of terrorists, with many people dying as a result. International society needs to work together for preventing use of jihadists and spreading radical religious ideologies, by some states and organizations. UN, OSCE, SCO and other international and regional organizations must work together and double their efforts for peacebuilding and peacekeeping, which we need so much in the entire world.
I wish all of us peace and security in the coming year. I hope that the International Institute for Peace will continue to play an important role as a platform for promoting peace and dialogue, which it has been doing successfully for several decades.
December 24, 2020