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Insights into Editorial: Navigations in Bishkek


Insights into Editorial: Navigations in Bishkek


Context:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a two-day visit to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.

India will hold bilateral meetings with Russia and China on the side-lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) summit at Bishkek.

At the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, India will have to navigate between two contradictory imperatives.

While on the one hand it must act as a willing partner of regional cooperation led by China and Russia, on the other it must avoid being seen as a part of the ‘anti-American gang’.

It could also be seen as a paradox that India wants to fight against terrorism through a body that includes states that pose the biggest threats to Indian security.

 

About Shanghai Cooperation Organization:

SCO is a permanent inter-governmental international organisation formed in 2001. It is established to ensure greater Coordination among the major powers in the Eurasian Region.

SCO comprises Eight Member States i.e., India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

It was preceded by the Shanghai Five Mechanism. The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO and it meets once a year.

 

How does membership of the SCO help India?

For India, two important objectives are counter-terrorism and connectivity.

  • These sit well with the SCO’s main objective of working cooperatively against the “three evils” terrorism, separatism and extremism.
  • India wants access to intelligence and information from SCO’s counter-terrorism body, the Tashkent-based Regional Anti Terror Structure (RATS).
  • A stable Afghanistan too is in India’s interest, and RATS provides access to non-Pakistan-centred counter-terrorism information there.
  • Connectivity is important for India’s Connect Central Asia policy. Energy cooperation dominates its interest – and it’s in China’s neighbourhood. \
  • But India will also have to deal with an assertive China, which will push its Belt and Road Initiative during the summit.
  • SCO membership also bolsters India’s status as a major pan-Asian player, which is boxed in the South Asian paradigm.
  • The Prime Minister also highlighted the need for tackling climate change, saying that India is committed to developing solar energy.

 

PM Modi says nations supporting terrorism should be held accountable, isolated:

India has been a permanent SCO member for two years now and has positively contributed to all its activities and continued engagements to enhance SCO’s role and credibility on the international stage.

PM Modi highlighted the spirit and ideals of the SCO to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Modi briefly discussed Pakistan and asserted that India’s efforts towards peace with the neighbouring country have been “derailed” as Islamabad has not created an atmosphere “free of terrorism”. He stressed that talks cannot happen with terrorism at the helm.

He also called on the SCO member states to cooperate under the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) against terrorism and again stressed upon the need for a global conference on terrorism.

 

How does global geopolitics play out for SCO and India?

  • The US’ power struggle with China, exit from the Iran nuclear deal JCPOA (affects India’s oil imports from Iran), and adversarial attitude towards Russia (affects India’s defence purchase like S-400) have forced India to choose sides.
  • While Washington’s stance against Islamabad after the Pulwama attack was evidence of its support to New Delhi, India has had a strained relationship with China after the Doklam stand-off, followed by attempts to reset relations in Wuhan.
  • India, however, has always been tactful in not aligning with these countries on governance issues.
  • What draws India to SCO is the “Shanghai spirit”, which emphasises harmony, non-interference in others’ internal affairs, and non-alignment.
  • The bottom line is that it helps India keep all options open in terms of international partnerships.

 

SCO will be new alternative to dormant SAARC:

In the absence of the SAARC summit, the SCO summit gives an opportunity for Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet informally, on the side-lines.

Both sides have the obligation not to bring in bilateral disputes, but can cooperate on issues of mutual interest and importance.

Signing off on joint counter-terrorism exercises will be a new form of engagement between the two militaries.

With China, it is yet another opening, like the BRICS summit last year, to bring down tensions, and ahead of the next informal summit in October in India.

While India had refused to endorse China’s Belt and Road Initiative at the last SCO summit in Qingdao, we hope that India pushes for SCO connectivity. The connectivity issue has been hijacked by BRI and China.

 

Conclusion:

To be sure, none of the institutional-level measures including the joint SCO military exercises have so far entailed any satisfactory results in jointly fighting against terrorism.

Nevertheless, the SCO is relevant for India to garner support for reforms of the UNSC to make the UNSC more representative and effective.

India has been lending support to the member countries’ candidatures for non-permanent membership of the UNSC for a long time.

To tackle the danger of terrorism, all humanitarian powers should come forward together. Countries that provide encouragement, support, and finances to terrorism must be held accountable.