Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

PM Modi to host SCO 2023 Summit


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: SCO

Mains level: Read the attached story


Central Idea

  • The upcoming virtual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, holds significant importance in the current geopolitical context.
  • Ashok Sajjanhar, a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer and ambassador to several countries, shares his insights on the event and its potential outcomes.

What is SCO?

  • SCO is an international organization founded in 2001.
  • It is primarily focused on promoting cooperation and regional stability among its member states.
  • The SCO originated from the Shanghai Five mechanism, which was established in 1996 to resolve border disputes and promote mutual trust among China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
  • Uzbekistan joined the organization in 2001, leading to its formation as the SCO.
Member States China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan
Objectives Promote regional security, stability, economic cooperation
Cooperation Areas Political, security, economic, cultural
Security Cooperation Joint military exercises, counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing
Economic Cooperation Trade facilitation, investment, infrastructure development
Key Bodies SCO Summit, SCO Business Council, Interbank Consortium of the SCO
Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) Coordination of anti-terrorism efforts
Dialogue Partners Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, Mongolia, among others
Observer States Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, among others
Outreach and Engagement United Nations, ASEAN, CIS, and other regional/international organizations


Significance of the Meeting during the Russia-Ukraine War

  • Major participants: The summit is expected to see the participation of key leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif.
  • Declining Influence of Russia: The meeting provides an opportunity for President Putin to gauge the declining influence and relevance of Russia, particularly in the Central Asian countries.
  • Message for Resolution: The decreased importance of Russia’s role in the region may convey the need for a prompt resolution to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

India’s Strategic Autonomy and Self-Assuredness

  • Successful India-US Relations: Prime Minister Modi’s recent successful visit to the United States highlights the growth of India-US relations.
  • India’s Role in SCO: India’s participation in the SCO while maintaining strong relations with the United States underscores its strategic autonomy and self-assuredness.

Impact of PM Modi’s Statement to Mr. Putin

  • Asserting India’s Voice: PM Modi’s statement, “this is not the era of war,” showcased India’s capacity to communicate with President Putin.
  • Influencing Diplomatic Outcomes: The statement helped in securing the Bali G20 summit declaration and demonstrated India’s voice as a mediator between Russia and the West.

Implications for India-China Relations

  • Unlikely Impact on Border Standoff: The virtual summit is unlikely to have any immediate impact on the India-China border standoff.
  • Ongoing Talks and Stalemate: Multiple rounds of talks between India and China have taken place, but there has been limited progress in de-escalation and disengagement at key points.
  • Snub to Pakistan: India’s strong stance on cross-border terrorism, as demonstrated in the past, is likely to be reiterated during the discussions.

India’s Opportunities at SCO

  • Central Asian outreach: India has historical and cultural ties with Central Asian countries and aims to expand partnerships in the region.
  • Neglected Engagement: Post-Soviet independence, India’s engagement with these countries was hindered by its lack of direct access through Pakistan’s territory.
  • SCO as a Platform: India’s SCO membership allows for interaction at various levels and offers opportunities to strengthen ties with Central Asian countries.


  • The SCO virtual summit presents a significant opportunity for India to engage with key regional players and enhance its profile and stature in Central Asia.
  • The summit’s outcomes, including the adoption of documents on various issues, will contribute to advancing India’s interests, strengthening trade ties, and promoting investments in the region.

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