- India recently hosted a meeting of the National Security Advisors of member countries.
- India is the current Chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and is holding a series of events which will culminate in the SCO Summit, which will be held in July.
In this article, we will discuss the significance of the SCO for India.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO): A quick recap
- Background: After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the then security and economic architecture in the Eurasian region dissolved and new structures had to come up.
- Original shanghai five: The original Shanghai Five were China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
- SCO formation: The SCO was formed in 2001, with Uzbekistan included. It expanded in 2017 to include India and Pakistan.
- Security is the priority: Since its formation, the SCO has focused on regional non-traditional security, with counter-terrorism as a priority.
- Three evils: The fight against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and extremism has become its mantra.
- Expanded areas of cooperation: Today, areas of cooperation include themes such as economics and culture.
- Member States: 8 member states- China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan.
- Observers: 4 observer states- Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia.
- Dialogue Partners: 6 dialogue partners- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.
Functionaries of SCO
- Executive Branch: The SCO has an executive branch, which is headed by the Secretary-General and is responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the organization.
- Council of Heads of State: The highest decision-making body of the SCO is the Council of Heads of State, which meets annually to discuss and decide on important issues.
- Council of Heads of Government: The Council of Heads of Government is the second most important decision-making body of the SCO, which meets annually to discuss and decide on economic and trade-related issues.
- Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS): The SCO has RATS, which is responsible for coordinating the efforts of member states in the fight against terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
Significance of SCO for India
- Central Asia connection: SCO membership provides India with an opportunity to engage with Central Asian nations, Russia, and China, and work towards promoting regional stability, security, and economic cooperation.
- Security cooperation: SCO focuses on combating terrorism, separatism, and extremism in the region, which is of particular concern to India.
- Consensus over CBT: India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism for decades. India has been working closely with the RATS to share intelligence and coordinate counter-terrorism operations in the region.
- Economic push: SCO has set up mechanisms for trade and economic cooperation, including the SCO Business Council, the SCO Interbank Consortium, and the SCO Development Bank.
- Cultural cooperation: The organization aims to promote cultural exchanges among member states and has set up mechanisms for cooperation in fields such as education, science, and technology.
Major push for India’s diplomacy
- Engagement with China: SCO membership provides India with an opportunity to engage with China and Russia, two major powers in the region.
- Reinstating Afghanistan: India has been working with China and Russia to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.
- Dais sharing with Pakistan: Pakistan’s membership in the SCO is also significant in the context of its ongoing conflict with India, as it provides it with a platform to engage in dialogue with India.
Issues with SCO (Indian context)
There have been several issues with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Some of these include:
- Pakistan’s presence: India has accused Pakistan of using SCO forums to spread propaganda and misinformation against India.
- China’s dominance: India has also expressed concerns over China’s dominance in the organization and its attempts to use the platform to push its strategic interests in the region.
- Limited economic benefits: Despite being a member of the organization for over a decade, India’s trade with other SCO members remains limited and has not been able to tap the full potential of the organization.
- Limited counter-terrorism cooperation: While the primary objective of the organization is to combat terrorism, India has expressed concerns over the limited counter-terrorism cooperation among member states.
- Limited influence: Despite being a major power in the region, India’s voice and concerns have not been adequately represented in the organization
- Engaging in more active participation: India can increase its participation in SCO activities, meetings, and initiatives to ensure its voice is heard and its concerns are addressed.
- Emphasizing economic cooperation: India can focus on expanding economic cooperation with other SCO members to increase trade and investment and promote joint economic projects in the region.
- Strengthening bilateral ties: India can work to strengthen bilateral ties with key SCO members, such as Russia and China, to ensure its interests are taken into account in SCO decisions and initiatives.
- Addressing security concerns: India can work with other SCO members to address security concerns in the region, including terrorism, extremism, and separatism. This could involve sharing intelligence, coordinating security measures, and conducting joint military exercises.
- Cultural exchanges: India can focus on promoting cultural exchanges with other SCO members to foster greater understanding and cooperation between nations. This could include promoting tourism, student exchanges, and cultural events.
- Focusing on regional stability: India can work with other SCO members to promote stability and security in the region, including addressing conflicts and tensions between nations. This could involve promoting dialogue, mediating disputes, and supporting peacekeeping efforts.