Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

India becomes a permanent member at SCO. What next?

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SCO

Mains level : SCO and India

In an indirect reference to the Chinese infrastructure projects in PoK, our PM has urged members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to respect “territorial integrity” and “sovereignty”.

What is SCO?

  • 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.
  • The original Shanghai Five were China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
  • The SCO was formed in 2001, with Uzbekistan included. It expanded in 2017 to include India and Pakistan.
  • Since its formation, the SCO has focused on regional non-traditional security, with counter-terrorism as a priority.
  • The fight against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and extremism has become its mantra. Today, areas of cooperation include themes such as economics and culture.

Try this PYQ now:

Q. In the context of the affairs of which of the following is the phrase “Special Safeguard Mechanisms” mentioned in the news frequently?

(a) United Nations Environment Programme

(b) World Trade Organization

(c) ASEAN- India Free Trade Agreement

(d) G-20 Summits

India’s entry to the SCO

  • India and Pakistan both were observer countries.
  • While Central Asian countries and China were not in favour of expansion initially, the main supporter — of India’s entry in particular — was Russia.
  • A widely held view is that Russia’s growing unease about an increasingly powerful China prompted it to push for its expansion.
  • From 2009 onwards, Russia officially supported India’s ambition to join the SCO. China then asked for its all-weather friend Pakistan’s entry.

Tap to read more about SCO

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

[pib] SCOJtEx-2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SCOJtEx-2019

Mains level : SCO

  • Union Minister of Home Affairs inaugurated the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Joint Exercise on Urban Earthquake Search & Rescue (SCOJtEx-2019) in New Delhi.

SCOJtEx-2019

  • SCOJtEx is being organized with the aim to provide an opportunity to enhance the coordination & co-operation involving multi-agency operations in an earthquake scenario.
  • The four day long simulation exercise shall be conducted as per the International Search & Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) methodology & guidelines.
  • The participants of all 08 member countries namely China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan shall be participating in this exercise (Pakistan opted out).
  • On the initiative of Government of India, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is hosting SCOJtEx-2019.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

Eurasian Economic Forum

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Eurasian Economic Forum

Mains level : Read the attached story

India skips the summit

  • India has skipped a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which was organised by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Xi’an in China.
  • Since the BRI’s launch in 2017, India has remained firm on not singing it off at the SCO’s annual summits in 2018 and 2019.
  • The summit’s declarations of both years reflected the endorsement of the controversial project by all members but India.
  • India has been a member of the SCO since 2017.

The EAEU and the Belt and Road Initiative

  • In November 2018, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev met in Beijing for the 23rd annual meeting between heads of government, and the two sides agreed to enhance trade and economic ties.
  • China would aims to synergize the Belt BRI and the Eurasian Economic Union.
  • Both sides expressed willingness to dovetail the China-proposed BRI and Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union.

The BRI and India’s opposition

  • The BRI is a mammoth infrastructure project unveiled by China in 2017, which plans to connect the three continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa.
  • The ‘Belt’ part refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt, consisting of three overland routes.
  • First, a link between China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe. Second, a link through Central Asia and West Asia linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. And third, a connection from China to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Indian Ocean.
  • The ‘Road’ part refers to the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, creating maritime trade channels from China through the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific.
  • The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an important part of the BRI, passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • In May 2017, India strongly opposed the BRI as it cannot accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Back2Basics

SCO

  • The SCO, an intergovernmental body for security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region, was formed in 2001 by the ‘Shanghai Five’ (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan).
  • It was formed in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.
  • Uzbekistan joined the SCO in 2001, with India and Pakistan following suit in 2017.
  • The SCO has traditionally prioritised on counter-terrorism, listing terrorism, separatism and extremism as “the three evils.
  • However, since its formation, the SCO’s domain has expanded to include subjects such as culture and economics.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

What SCO summit means for India’s global and regional interests

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SCO

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • PK Modi has departed for the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  • 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.
  • The original Shanghai Five were China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
  • The SCO was formed in 2001, with Uzbekistan included. It expanded in 2017 to include India and Pakistan.
  • Since its formation, the SCO has focused on regional non-traditional security, with counter-terrorism as a priority:
  • The fight against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and extremism has become its mantra.
  • Today, areas of cooperation include themes such as economics and culture.

India’s entry to the SCO

  • India and Pakistan both were observer countries.
  • While Central Asian countries and China were not in favour of expansion initially, the main supporter — of India’s entry in particular — was Russia.
  • A widely held view is that Russia’s growing unease about an increasingly powerful China prompted it to push for its expansion.
  • From 2009 onwards, Russia officially supported India’s ambition to join the SCO. China then asked for its all-weather friend Pakistan’s entry.

How does membership of the SCO help India?

 [I] Counter-terrorism

  • These sit well with the SCO’s main objective of working cooperatively against the “three evils”.
  • India wants access to intelligence and information from SCO’s counter-terrorism body, the Tashkent-based Regional Anti Terror Structure (RATS).
  • A stable Afghanistan too is in India’s interest, and RATS provides access to non-Pakistan-centred counter-terrorism information there.

[II] Connectivity

  • Connectivity is important for India’s Connect Central Asia policy. Energy cooperation dominates its interest – and it’s in China’s neighbourhood.
  • But India will also have to deal with an assertive China, which will push its Belt and Road Initiative during the summit.
  • SCO membership also bolsters India’s status as a major pan-Asian player, which is boxed in the South Asian paradigm.

Geopolitics and play out for India

  • The US’ power struggle with China, exit from the Iran nuclear deal JCPOA which affected India’s oil imports from Iran and adversarial attitude towards Russia which delayed India’s defence purchase like S-400.
  • While US’s stance against Islamabad after the Pulwama attack was evidence of its support to New Delhi, India has had a strained relationship with China after the Doklam stand-off, followed by attempts to reset relations in Wuhan.

A cause of worry for US

  • In the SCO, India’s sitting down with less-than-free regimes, Russia and China has always had the West worried.
  • India, however, has always been tactful in not aligning with these countries on governance issues.

How does it play out in the India-Pakistan or India-China relationship?

  • In the absence of the SAARC summit, the SCO summit gives an opportunity for Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet informally, on the sidelines.
  • Both sides have the obligation not to bring in bilateral disputes, but can cooperate on issues of mutual interest and importance.
  • Signing off on joint counter-terrorism exercises will be a new form of engagement between the two militaries.
  • With China, it is yet another opening, like the BRICS summit last year, to bring down tensions, and ahead of the next informal summit in October in India.

Way Forward

  • What draws India to SCO is the “Shanghai spirit”, which emphasises harmony, non-interference in others’ internal affairs, and non-alignment.
  • The bottom-line is that it helps India keep all options open in terms of international partnerships.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

Exercise Sary-Arka Anti-terror 2019

Note4students

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: SCO, Ex Sary-Arka

Mains level: Strategic importance of SCO


News

  • India, Pakistan and the other member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will take part in a joint anti-terrorism exercise to be held this year by the grouping.

Ex Sary-Arka Anti-terror 2019

  • The decision to hold the joint exercise was announced during the 34th meeting of the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) council held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
  • Delegations of the competent authorities of India, Kazakhstan, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the RATS Executive Committee attended the meeting.
  • Chaired by Russia, the meeting also declared plans to hold the first stage of the joint border operation “Solidarity 2019-2021”.

About RATS

  • Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) is a permanent organ of the SCO which serves to promote cooperation of member states against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism. It is headquartered in Tashkent.
  • Its head is elected to three-year term. Each member state of SCO sends permanent representative to RATS

Back2Basics

Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO)

  • The SCO, in which China plays an influential role, is also comprised of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
  • India and Pakistan were admitted into the bloc in 2017.
  • It is Eurasian economic, political and security organisation headquartered in Beijing, China.
  • Its main objective is military cooperation between member states. It is primarily centred on security-related concerns of Central Asian members with main threats being terrorism, separatism and extremism.
  • It was established in June 2001 as a successor of Shanghai Five mechanism which was established in 1996 with China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan as members.
  • Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia enjoy observer status of SCO.
  • Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Nepal are dialogue partners of SCO.

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  –

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