SCO & India

As of July 2015, India has been accorded full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) along with Pakistan at its Ufa summit held in Russia.

  • SCO is a Eurasian economic, political and military organisation
  • HQ: Beijing, China
  • Established: 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders 6 countries viz. China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan
  • Since 2005, India was having an Observer status of SCO and had applied for full membership in 2014. India would be finally ratified in the member list by 2016

Connecting the dots with SCO

Per Chinese and Russian scholars, creation of SCO helped address the security problems and enhance economic cooperation in the Central Asia region. The Western discourse, however, has tended to see the SCO as a mechanism to counter-balance the influence of the United States in the region. Both are correct!

SCO is considered and tagged as anti-west. Behind the veils, it is alleged that SCO is going to be a NATO like military alliance in East. You might expect a question on that line and be asked to put India’s context in place.

However, China exaggeratedly says that the SCO was founded on a principle of non-alignment and functions as an effective stabilizer for regional security and peace. China has always maintained that the focus of SCO is on combating the “three evil forces” – terrorism, separatism, and extremism – and other unconventional security menaces.

Advantage India?

There are multiple benefits for India as well as the SCO which is concerned with security and stability in the Eurasian space.

  1. India’s presence will help moderate the anti-West bias of the grouping, which will calm Washington’s nerves to a considerable extent
  2. Greater engagement with India will also aid the organisation’s capability to improve regional economic prosperity and security
  3. Membership will give India an opportunity to play an active role in China’s Silk Road initiative which plans to link a new set of routes from the north and east of the country to an old network of routes in the greater Eurasian region.
  4. Indian interest in International North-South Transport Corridor to connect Mumbai with Abbas port in Iran. This route is shorter than the existing Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea
  5. SCO may also serve as guarantor for projects such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipelines, which are held by India due to security concerns.

India’s entry is also likely to tip the balance of power in favor of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Challenges ahead for SCO?

It is naive to expect that India’s differences with China regarding the border or its ties with Pakistan will magically disappear. The inclusion of Pakistan in the SCO will also make it difficult for India to enjoy a level playing field.

Pakistan, which is embroiled in a domestic political crisis, may not be so willing to challenge hardliners in its country, and go along with India in promoting peace and stability in the Eurasian space. We have seen how Indo-Pak presence in SAARC makes it difficult to ink key pacts.

The clash of interests in a post – 2014 Afghanistan makes prospects of cooperation difficult. There is also a possibility that China may collude with Pakistan to suffocate India’s voice in the decision making process.

Other than that, India will have to balance the geopolitical ambitions of China and Russia to evolve a mutually beneficial framework.

Further readings:

SCO becomes a reasonably hot topic post India’s accession to the member status. If you are comfortable with IR, try these articles  –

Any doubts?

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[op-ed snap] Clouded coherence



Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the SCO (done many times) and RATS.

Mains level: Important, as it covers different contradictions that can create problems for India at the SCO.



  1. Article is about India getting full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Astana
  2. It talks about where Indian foreign policy stands now

Why is getting Membership of the SCO important for India?

  1. Easy access to the energy-rich Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
  2. It is an important forum on counter-terrorism cooperation, connectivity, and on resolving the situation in Afghanistan
  3. It makes India a part of a major security coalition in Asia

Contradiction in India’s Stand (according to the writer)

First, India had avoided China’s Belt and Road Initiative (B&R) but getting SCO in full!

  1. In a strongly worded statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said not only does India have “sovereignty” issues over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) part of the B&R, it has environmental worries and concerns over the “unsustainable debt burden” for smaller countries, as well as over the lack of transparency from China
  2. But all SCO members are a part of B&R and endorse it. And countries like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are keen to join the CPEC too

Second, SCO is a security alliance (not a cultural one)

  1. Its charter in 2001 specifies confidence-building in “military fields
  2. The SCO commits to “jointly preserving regional peace, security and stability; and establishing a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order”
  3. It is a direct reference to a compact led by Russia and China, clearly aimed at the West
  4.  As a result, the SCO has been often called the “Anti-NATO”, meant to counterbalance U.S. and Europe power structures
  5. It would seem incongruous to reconcile this with India’s close military ties with the U.S.

How it can effect India’s stance on Pakistan? (according to the writer)

  1. The SCO executive speaks of counter-terror cooperation as a part of its Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), with joint exercises among member states
  2. This would effect India’s objective of “exposing” Pakistan’s cross-border terror policy
  3. Also,  it can derail any progress in the manner India-Pakistan tensions finished off the SAARC process

India to get SCO full membership in Astana, say Russia and China



Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

India has been gaining membership of various international organizations since last one year increasing its international stature. SCO is one such after MTCR. Read news card to know more about SCO. (In B2B)

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: SCO, members and objective, other related details.

Mains level: India-SCO relationship, benefits to India from SCO membership and other related issues.


  1. Both China and Russia said that India will become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) when Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the summit-level meeting in Kazakhstan capital Astana on June 8 and 9

Another chance for India-Pakistan?

  1. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson hoped that the admission of India and Pakistan as full members would help improve their bilateral relations
  2. She expected that India and Pakistan will strictly follow the charter of the SCO and the idea of good neighborliness to uphold the SCO spirit, improve their relations and inject new impetus into the development of the SCO

About the membership:

  1. During the 2015 summit in Ufa, Russia, the SCO formally adopted a resolution starting the process to admit India and Pakistan as full members
  2. Both the countries signed a Memorandum of Obligations to join the organisation at 2016 summit in Tashkent


Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

Objective: The SCO or Shanghai Pact is a Eurasian political, economic and military grouping aimed at military cooperation between the members and involves intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism operations in Central Asia

Establishment and Location: Founded in 2001. Headquartered in Beijing

Stakeholders: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organisation as SCO

Is India a member? Yes. Became member on June 9, 2017.

Projects undertaken: The SCO is primarily centered on its member nations’ Central Asian security-related concerns, often describing the main threats it confronts as being terrorism, separatism and extremism. Regional Anti Terrorism Structure (RATS) and agreement with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are aimed at this.

How will India  benefit from membership in the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization)?

  1. An opportunity to resolve border disputes
    India has long standing border disputes with Pakistan and China.This would provide an opportunity to hold more talks together and resolve the issue.
  2. Restarting stalled projects
    For many years, projects like IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) and TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipelines were halted due to security reasons.With India and Pakistan now joining the organization, it is highly possible that the projects may finally take off.
  3. Solution to India’s Energy Crisis:
    All the founding members are richly endowed when it comes to minerals and natural resources.Having close ties with these countries might be the answer to India’s energy crisis.

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Modi diplomacy, part two



Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

3 years of foreign policy jamboree by Modi government has been summed up in this op-ed. All the important nations in India’s foreign policy like USA, Russia, China, Pakistan have been discussed. Gains, future prospects and all related issues are covered. Read and bookmark this op-ed.

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: NSG entry, location of all mentioned countries on map and related geographical features.

Mains level: Has foreign policy of Modi government delivered desired results. What went wrong and way forward.


  1. Few would disagree with the proposition that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had a great run with foreign policy over the last three years
  2. His personal energy and pragmatism, coupled with an emphasis on problem-solving, had allowed Modi to rejuvenate India’s post-Cold War foreign policy
  3. India’s problems with Pakistan and China and the difficulties, for example, with the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group over the last year are symptomatic of the larger challenge that confronts Modi


Not in India’s hand:

  1. India cannot regulate the frequent flips in the relationships amongst other independent actors
  2. Nor can it predict, let alone control, sweeping political and technological revolutions that produce systemic change
  3. Even a carefully constructed foreign policy strategy could go awry if the external circumstances change radically

Foreign policy path of India since 1991:

  1. The policy path was, in fact, largely laid down way back at the turn of the 1990s when the Cold War ended and Delhi had to embark on economic reforms
  2. The unstated diplomatic guidelines included a greater emphasis on economic goals and improved relations with all major powers.
  3. There was a special focus on normalising ties with China and ending the estrangement with America
  4. Delhi also sought to limit the conflict with Pakistan, promote regional cooperation in the Subcontinent, reconnect with Asia and the Indian Ocean, and bring Delhi’s multilateral diplomacy in tune with India’s changing national needs in the reform era

Gain or loss from this path?

  1. All governments since 1991 have followed these policies with varying degrees of success
  2. A number of external factors facilitated India’s advances in this period
  3. One was the relative harmony among the major powers, thanks to the uncontested American unipolar moment
  4. The second was the widespread acceptance of economic globalisation or the Washington consensus
  5. The third was the digital revolution that allowed India to create a niche for itself in the IT sector

What did Mr. Modi do?

  1. Modi accepted the imperatives of the external world and pushed vigorously for improving ties with the US
  2. Reached out to China and Pakistan
  3. Welcomed foreign investment
  4. strengthened India’s regionalism and raised its international profile

Wary future:

  1. With America- PM Modi had considerable successes with America, but must now cope with a great power that is distracted by internecine battles in Washington
  2. With Russia- The PM’s effort to strengthen ties with Russia have entered a complex phase, as President Vladimir Putin tightens the China embrace and seeks a deal with US President Donald Trump
  3. With China- President Xi Jinping has decided that China’s moment in the sun has arrived, thanks to the huge and growing power differential between Beijing and its neighbours
  4. As Modi found out, being nice to Beijing does not mean China will reciprocate on NSG membership
  5. Xi’s enhanced bet on Pakistan has also made Islamabad less vulnerable to Western pressures, such as they are, on terrorism
  6. With Pakistan- Pakistan will neither be seduced by an Indian outreach, nor give into Delhi’s threats
  7. Finding ways to deal with a rising China and manage Pakistan’s intransigence will remain big problems for India

New external constraints:

  1. The shifting dynamic amidst great powers
  2. Continuing trouble on the borders
  3. Matched by the political backlash in the West against free trade and immigration
  4. The new external constraints come amidst the deepening of India’s interdependence with the world
  5. Nearly 40 per cent of India’s GDP is linked to the world and for half a century, its skilled personnel enjoyed open doors in many markets. Some of those are beginning to close
  6. On top of it all, the dramatic acceleration of technological change has put pressure on the one sector that has come to generate nearly a tenth of India’s GDP and symbolised India’s rise

Way forward:

  1. As its economy grows at seven percent and more, India’s net weight in the international system can only improve
  2. But to sustain India’s rise, Delhi must necessarily focus on three important elements
  3. It must shed the current complacency about growth and bring its economic and technology policies in line with the rapidly evolving external environment
  4. Second, India needs urgent and significant defence sector reform to lend purpose and effect to its growing military mass
  5. Third, sharper commercial, security and technology policies will help India better navigate the unfolding power shifts amongst America, China and Russia and construct durable strategic partnerships with such middle powers as Japan, France and Germany


India, Pak. in SCO will ensure security of region, says China

  1. China hopes that the admission of India and Pakistan into the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) security grouping will contribute to security and stability in the region
  2. Currently, all sides are going through relevant legal procedures in accordance with the Memorandum of Obligations signed at last year’s SCO summit at Tashkent to admit India and Pakistan
  3. Both India and Pakistan are China’s important neighbours and important countries in South Asia
  4. India and Pakistan can enhance mutual trust and improve relations through more dialogues
  5. This is conducive to not only the two countries themselves, but also to regional prosperity and development


For prelims- India and Pak are set to become full members of SCO; know about SCO (click here). At the least you should be aware of the purpose of such organisations, their members, their full names etc. For mains- note the significance of the membership.

Learn about Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  1. About: A Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai
  2. By Whom? Leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan
  3. Headquarters: Beijing
  4. Relevance: SCO is seen as a counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
  5. Members: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan (New)
  6. Observers: Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia and Belarus

Nepal joins SCO grouping as dialogue partner

  1. News: Nepal has become a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)
  2. Context: Now, Nepal is able to participate in the multi-field cooperation of the SCO, which has an increasing presence in international affairs
  3. New opportunities: for the SCO’s mutually beneficial cooperation and benefit people living in the extensive region that the SCO covers
  4. Recently, Azerbaijan also officially became a SCO dialogue partner

Russia to push for India’s membership in SCO

  1. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, founded in 2001, comprises Russia, China and some Central Asian nations and is seen as a counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
  2. China had also endorsed India’s bid to become a full time member at SCO and at Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum.

Discuss: In 2014, CSAT saw direct factual questions on BRICS & Arctic Council. Keep the important intl. org. in mind.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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