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India and SCO

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: International Relations – Regional grouping


Source: IE

 Context: Chinese and Russian defence ministers are attending a ministerial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Delhi this week. Also, India will chair the Eurasian regional forum this year.


About SCO:

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) (est. 2001; HQ: Beijing) is a Eurasian political, economic, international security and defence organization. 
TypePermanent intergovernmental international organisation
NeedAfter the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the then security and economic architecture in the Eurasian region dissolved and new structures had to come up.


MembersChina, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan (not Turkmenistan), were the original ‘Shanghai Five’. Uzbekistan was included afterwards. India and Pakistan joined the organization in 2017
Key prioritiesRegional non-traditional security, counter-terrorism; Fight against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and extremism
ObserversIran, Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia
Current HeadIndia is the current chair of  SCO
Internal conflicts within SCOBetween India and China; India and Pakistan; Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan; Pakistan and Taliban-led Afghanistan; and No Central Asian neighbour has endorsed the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


How India gains from SCO:

Dimensions Benefits for India
Geopolitical BalanceAsian PlayerSCO bolsters India’s status as a major pan-Asian player which is currently limited in the South Asian paradigm.
Multi-alignmentAgainst the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war; US’ power struggle with China and sanctions on Iran. SCO helps India engage with all sides.
“Shanghai Spirit”It emphasises India’s foreign policy of harmony, non-interference in others’ internal affairs, and non-alignment.
Regional EngagementFacilitates Bilateral EngagementE.g., India is a major trade partner of Russia and China
Informal Meeting OpportunitiesThe SCO summit gives an opportunity for Indian and Pakistani leaders; the India-Chinese delegation; India-Russian leaders to meet informally, on the sidelines.
Security dimensionsE.g., India wants access to intelligence and information from SCO’s counter-terrorism body, the Tashkent-based Regional Anti-Terror Structure (RATS). Also, India through SCO can help in the stability of Afghanistan.
ConnectivityE.g., International North-South Transport Corridor


India’s challenges in dealing with SCO:

Differences between India and PakistanDifferences on cross-border terrorism, geopolitics, Kashmir dispute.
Differences between India and ChinaIndia’s concern over China’s BRI initiative and Chinese expansionist policy on India’s borders.
Intelligence sharingIndia may be hesitant to share intelligence with Pakistan and China within the SCO’s anti-terrorism structures.
SCO’s Stance on KashmirThe SCO may not take a firm stance on the Kashmir dispute that India would like. China is likely to take Pakistan’s side, creating tensions.
Limited support for the India-China border disputeThe SCO’s other members may not have the capability to stand up to China in any border dispute between India and China, limiting the SCO’s ability to help India.
Containing China’s riseIndia wants to contain China’s influence in the region, but joint containment efforts may not happen within the confines of the SCO.
Afghanistan is not part of SCOCooperation with Central Asian states is important for India in combating terrorism in Afghanistan, but Afghanistan is not part of the SCO.



While the SCO has been successful in attracting a growing number of regional states, its internal contradictions are casting a shadow over its strategic coherence.


Insta Links:



Mains Links

SCO serves India’s quest for geopolitical balance and regional engagement, however, any benefits from it are cancelled out by the presence of China and Pakistan. Has India gained anything substantial from the SCO? Critically examine. (15M)