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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?


  1. Ratika Tiwari

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[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Indian diplomacy, beyond the canon

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bodhi Parva, BIMSTEC, two plus two dialogue,  G-20, East Asia Summit, BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Commonwealth forum

Mains level: India’s rising stature in multipolar world


Context

Multi-directional foreign policy

  1. India’s intensive diplomatic engagements this week help us better frame Delhi’s unfolding multi-directional foreign policy
  2.  India can sit with the US and its allies one day and hold consultations with the Russians and Chinese the next
  3. This reflects a definitive pragmatism rooted in the rise of India and the emergence of multipolar world

Bodhi Parva

  1. It was a celebration of Buddhist heritage to mark the 20th anniversary of a Bay of Bengal Forum, the BIMSTEC
  2. It brings together five South Asian nations (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka) and two South East Asian nations (Burma and Thailand)

Idea of minilateralism

  1. Along with cultural, digital and physical connectivity, the idea of minilateralism with multiple partners has become an important theme in Indian diplomacy
  2. Delhi’s support for the renewal of the quadrilateral security dialogue marked its emphasis on ad hoc and flexible arrangements to pursue India’s interests in a more complex world

Multiple engagements

  1. Delhi is hosting the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers this week as part of a continuing trilateral engagement over the last decade and a half
  2. It then holds another trilateral forum with Japan and Australia this week
  3. This supplements the quadrilateral dialogue as well as the on-going trilateral engagement with the US and Japan
  4. Delhi is also holding the first-ever “two plus two” dialogue with Australia in which the foreign and defense secretaries from the two countries sit together

Quad is India’s answer to China

  1. Quadrilateral dialogue with the US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan was China’s effort to construct a “new type of great power relations” with the United States
  2. Russia is also interested in a grand bargain with America under President Donald Trump
  3. Thus, India’s commitment to non-alignment can be rested for now
  4. India needs to secure its interests in an increasingly uncertain world

Pragmatism after the Cold War

  1. Delhi looked beyond the Non-Aligned Movement
  2. The opening to the West in general and the United States in particular, the trilateral engagement with Russia and China and the quadrilateral security dialogue were all initiated and advanced by the governments led by P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Manmohan Singh
  3. Today India is part of such diverse organizations like the G-20, East Asia Summit, BRICS, and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
  4. Delhi is now looking more positively at the Commonwealth forum that brings more than 50 members together

India’s changed position and way forward

  1. Today as one of the world’s top economies with growing military potential, India is in a position to shape the great power politics and influence the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia
  2. As the weakest among the major powers in the unfolding multipolar world, Delhi needs to advance in all directions and engage more actively with a variety of minilateral and multilateral forums

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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