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Sansad TV: Diplomatic Dispatch- India and the SCO

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Introduction:

Shanghai Cooperation Organization  22nd Summit was organized in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, with Prime Minister Modi in attendance.

SCO:

  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisationor SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and security organisation. SCO grew out of Shanghai Five founded in 1996 with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as its original members.
  • After the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991, China has a large number of undecided and disputed borders with many of the countries that became independent then. This saw the formation of Shanghai Five by these nations.
  • Uzbekistan joined the Shanghai Five group in June 2011and the group was henceforth named, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Its charter was signed in June 2002.
  • India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members in June 2017at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
  • SCO is the largest regional organisation in the world in terms of geographical coverage and populationand has become very powerful and influential.
  • Members of SCO in 2018:
    • 8 member states: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
    • 4 observer states: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran(now accepted as a member) and Mongolia
    • 6 dialogue partners: Armenia, Azerbaizan, Cambodia, Nepal, SriLanka and Turkey
  • SCO was initially formed to secure relations about security. Countries were supposed to work together against terrorism, extremism and separatism. Over the years it has become a comprehensive regional organisation.Its goals have become more widened.
  • Main goals of SCO are:
    • Promoting mutual trust and neighbourliness.
    • Promoting cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research, technology and culture.
    • Enhancing ties in areas like education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection and healthcare.
    • Maintaining and ensuring peace, security and stability in the region.
    • Moving towards establishment of democratic, fair and rational international political and economic order.
  • Heads of State Councilis supreme decision-making body. It meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters. Heads of Government Council is the second highest body.
  • 2 permanent bodies of SCO: SCO secretariat, Beijing and Executive Committee of the Anti-Terrorist Structure, Tashkent.

SCO’s Significance for India:

  • The SCO’s significance for Indialies in economics and geopolitics with the Eurasian states.
  • SCO is a potential platform to advance India’s Connect Central Asia policy.
  • The SCO member states occupy the huge landmass adjacent to India’s extended neighbourhood where India has both economic and security imperatives.
  • SCO membership provides India a vital counter to some of the other groupings it is a part of.
  • The SCO provides the only multilateral platform for India to deal in close proximity with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Analysis:

  • Neither India nor Pakistan which have entered SCO in 2017 will like to do anything which may project them as odd man out.
  • Pakistan wants to project itself as different to the world and may attend the summit since we have gone ahead and invited them.
  • Pakistan’s army even wants the pressure to be brought down because of economic sanctions which it is facing
  • If bilateral meeting on the side if held will be significant.

Challenges for India:

  • There are differences on the ideaof connectivity being put forth by different SCO members.
  • While India has made its opposition to Belt and Road Initiative clear, all other SCO members have embraced the Chinese project.
  • Growing closeness of Russia and China.
  • India’s bilateral trade with Central Asia and Russia is very low compared to China’s trade with Russia and Central Asia.
  • The lack of connectivity has also hampered development of energy ties between the hydrocarbonrich region and India.

Way Forward:

  • Regardless of the differences, the Indian government has consistently maintained the importance of the SCO grouping, referred to as the “Asian NATO” although it does not mandate security alliances.
  • The SCO is one of the few regional structures India is a part of now, given a decline in its engagement with SAARC, BBIN and the RCEP.
  • SCO provides a very good opportunity to India to connect with the leadership of Central Asian countries and that a very big take away.
  • India has a good record of economic growth and handling problem which is a problem of other countries which lays foundation to huge foreign investment.
  • Increase cooperation between SCO and other multilateral organisations.
  • Need to increase economic cooperation among SCO member states.
  • Focus on illegal drug trafficking, cooperation in information technology, environment, healthcare and sports.
  • Strengthen the fight against terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and organised crime among others.
  • Increasing awareness of our shared cultures can help boost tourism.
  • If India is not able to exploit the economic potential of the region, it will be a missed opportunity.