Foreign Policy Watch- India-Central Asia

[op-ed snap] India’s pivot to Eurasiaop-ed snap


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: Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), G-7, Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS)

Mains level:  U.S.-North Korea summit, Trade wars and its impact on India’s interests


Dichotomy for India

  1. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Qingdao, China (June 9-10) attracted little international attention
  2. This was majorly due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s acrimonious public exchanges with other leaders at the G-7 (group of seven industrialized countries) summit (June 7-8) and the headline-hogging U.S.-North Korea summit (June 12)


  1. The SCO grew out of the Shanghai Five grouping — of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan — which was set up in 1996 to resolve boundary disputes between China and each of the four other members
  2. It admitted Uzbekistan in 2001, re-christened itself the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and broadened its agenda to include political, economic and security cooperation
  3. It admitted India and Pakistan as full members in 2017

Opportunities at SCO

  1. The admission of India and Pakistan has expanded the geographical, demographic and economic profile of the SCO
  2. It now has about half the world’s population and a quarter of its GDP
  3. Its boundary extends southwards to the Indian Ocean
  4. The SCO’s relevance for India lies in geography, economics and geopolitics

How can SCO help?

  1. Its members occupy a huge landmass adjacent to India’s extended neighborhood, where India has important economic and security interests
  2. A narrow sliver of land separates southern Tajikistan from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir
  3. It makes sense to strengthen relations with your neighbors’ neighbors if you have complicated relations with your neighbours
  4. With Pakistan joining the Organisation and Afghanistan and Iran knocking on the doors for membership, the logic of India’s membership becomes stronger
  5. India has to carve out a political and economic space for itself in Central Asia, alongside Russia’s role as a net security provider and China’s dominating economic presence
  6. The Central Asian countries would welcome India breaking into this Russia-China duopoly

India-Pak rapprochement

  1. The SCO will nudge both countries to cooperate in sensitive areas
  2. One example is the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO, which coordinates cooperation for security and stability, through intelligence-sharing on criminal and terrorist activities
  3. India has agreed to participate in the SCO’s counter-terrorism military exercises in Russia later this year, when Indian and Pakistani troops will operate together
  4. Tacitly accepting the fact that India and Pakistan are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Qingdao declaration confirms the compliance of the SCO’s NPT signatories to its provisions

Non-Western Perspective on Global Issues

  1. Besides expanding opportunities for India in Central Asia, the SCO is a platform for articulating a non-Western perspective on global issues which distinct from an anti-Western one
  2. This includes opposition to the selective advocacy of regime change, self-serving homilies on human rights and intrusive advice on domestic policies


  1. Security and defense cooperation with Pakistan
  2. Increasing Chinese dominance of the SCO
  3. Another possible game-changer could be the fallout of the much-heralded U.S.-North Korea summit
  4. If peace in the Korean peninsula leads to reduced American military presence in the region, it would dramatically change the balance of forces in the Asia-Pacific in favor of China

Way Forward

  1. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the optimal development of India’s relations with Central Asian countries has been constrained by lack of overland access through Pakistan and Afghanistan/Iran, because of political and/or security reasons
  2. With new multimodal transport corridors now envisaged through Iran, there are again prospects of invigorating trade and investment links with this region

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
Notify of