Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)



    • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental organization founded in Shanghai on 15 June 2001 by six countries, People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; later expanded to eight states, with India and Pakistan joining
      • Also, the SCO counts four observer states, namely the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Belarus, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Mongolia
      • Also, the SCO has six dialogue partners, namely the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the Republic of Turkey, and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
    • It is an Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance
      • It is the world’s largest regional organisation in geographic scope and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent, 40% of the world population, and more than 20% of global GDP
    • The main objectives of the SCO are to
      • strengthen relations among member states
      • promote cooperation in political affairs, economics and trade, scientific-technical, cultural, and educational spheres as well as in energy, transportation, tourism, and environmental protection
      • safeguard regional peace, security, and stability; and
      • create a democratic, equitable international political and economic order
    • The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese
    • The SCO has been an observer in the UN General Assembly since 2005
    • SCO Secretariat has also established partnerships with
      • UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
      • World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
      • International Organization for Migration (IOM)
      • UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
      • United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
      • UN Office on Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT).

The Timeline



    • The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO
      • It meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation
    • The SCO Heads of Government Council (HGC) meets once a year to discuss the organisation’s multilateral cooperation strategy and priority areas, to resolve current important economic and other cooperation issues, and also to approve the organisation’s annual budget
    • In addition to HSC and HGC meetings, there is also a mechanism of meetings
      • at the level of heads of parliament
      • secretaries of Security Councils
      • ministers of foreign affairs, defence, emergency relief, economy, transport, culture, education, and healthcare
      • heads of law enforcement agencies and supreme and arbitration courts; and prosecutors general
    • The Council of National Coordinators of SCO Member States (CNC) acts as the SCO coordination mechanism.
    • The organisation has two permanent bodies — the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent



      • The SCO Summit in 2015 at Ufa (Russia), declared the initiation of the process of accession of India’s (and Pakistan’s) full membership in SCO
      • Further, India signed the Memorandum of Obligations (MOO) to obtain the status of Member of SCO
        • As per the obligations India had acceded to 34 SCO Agreements including the SCO Charter and Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism and 3 additional SCO Agreements that entered into force after signing the MOO


      • India’s entry into SCO as a full member since 2017, has been further activated with the establishment of the SCO Division in MEA and appointment of National Coordinator and Permanent Representative to SCO


      • India took part in an anti-terror drill of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) from August 22 to 29, 2018 in Chebarkul, Russia
        • The exercise involved tactical level operations in an international counter insurgency or counter terrorism environment under the SCO Charter
      • SCO Peace Mission Exercise is conducted biennially for the SCO member states. About 3,000 soldiers from China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan participated in the drill
      • At the official delegation to Summit of Heads of State in Qingdao, China in 2018, outcome documents signed included: the Joint Communique and Appeal to Youth against radicalization, Prevention of Narcotics Abuse, Environmental Protection, Fight against threat of Epidemics, Trade Facilitation, MSMEs, Customs and Tourism
        • Further, Plan of Action for SCO Treaty on Long term Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation for 2018-2022 and Protocol on the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group were also signed.
      • At the 17th Council of Heads of Government meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a Memorandum on Technical Cooperation in the Field of Joint Prevention and Control of Transboundary Diseases were signed


      • At the 19th Meeting of Council of Heads of State (CHS) of SCO in 2019 at Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: Issues on terrorism, Afghanistan, the economic and investment cooperation, humanitarian and cultural cooperation were raised
        • Further cooperation in the areas of Digitization and Information and Telecommunication Technologies, Forum of Heads of Regions, Development of Inter-regional Cooperation, Mass Media, Physical Education and Sports, Astana International Financial Center, World Tourism Organization etc., were also discussed
      • As part of the SCO Defence Cooperation Plan 2019-20, two-day Military Medicine Conference
        • The Indian Armed Forces demonstrated the Rapid Action medical Team and organized a guided tour for delegations of military medicine experts to Army Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi


        • As part of ongoing cooperation between the SCO countries in the field of tourism, a “SCO Corner in SATTE 2020” was put up in SATTE (South Asian Travel and Tours Exhibition) 2020, a travel mart event organized in collaboration with Ministry of Tourism, Incredible India and UNWTO showcasing the tourism potential of the SCO member states in the field of tourism
        • SCO Digital Exhibition dedicated to the Common Buddhist Heritage in New Delhi, was launched as a significance of the shared values and links between the peoples of the region


  • The grouping comprises India’s strategic partner and friend, Russia, two adversarial neighbours – China and Pakistan – and four important Central Asian Republics (CARs) – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
    • Thus, SCO presents a rare blend of history, geopolitics, cultural, civilisational and economic imperatives connecting India to Central Asia
  • The key benefits for India include:
    • SCO is a channel for India to deepen ties with Russia
    • India could use the forum to monitor and counter the influence of China and Pakistan
    • The organisation could help India expand cooperation and strengthen ties with Central Asian Republics (CARs)
  • The full membership of the SCO will provide India greater visibility in the affairs of the Eurasian region which is strategically important for India
  • It will enable India, as an integral part of the Eurasian security grouping, to neutralise centrifugal forces arising from religious extremism and terrorism in the region, with greater cooperation amongst the members
  • Further, it will help India in managing much more effectively the negative impact of a Talibanised Afghanistan, especially in the post-2014 scenario
  • Finally, energy, building trade and transportation links, and dealing with traditional and non-traditional security threats could be facilitated better through the SCO mechanism


Juxtaposition of two connectivity projects

    • India has presented consistent opposition to the violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity by the BRI’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir
    • But, the meetings of SCO have endorsed Russia’s initiative to connect the SCO with the Eurasian Economic Union and ASEAN, placing the predominantly East-West connectivity alignment of China’s BRI alongside the North-South connectivity alignment of Russia’s proposal
    • While at the same time, India is considering to prioritise support for implementing three major North-South connectivity proposals
      • The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
      • Chabahar Port and railway connecting India through Iran to Afghanistan, Central Asia and
      • RussiaVladivostok-Chennai sea lane of communication connecting India to Russia’s Far East as well as countries partnering India in her “Act East” policy

Way forward

      • Need of working group to address the concerns of all entities, considering the territorial integrity of each nation involved

SCOs counter-terrorism framework

    • Despite the establishment of the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), the SCO has not taken visible counterterrorism measures against the main threat facing its members, which emanates from terrorists and terrorist entities located in the Af-Pak region

Way forward

      • There is need for the Summit to play a central and coordinating role to enforce the Council’s sanctions against concerned entities

Deliberation of Bilateral issues into SCO

    • China and Pakistan have deliberately tried to bring bilateral issues into SCO. This violates the well-established principles and norms of the SCO Charter. Such acts are counterproductive to the spirit of consensus and cooperation that define this organisation and should be condemned

Way forward

      • India considers the SCO as an important regional group to promote cooperation in various fields based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality
      • Hence, the need for all members to stick to the principles in the charter and abide by its principles