History of the SCO
- Creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was proclaimed on June 15, 2001 in Shanghai (China) by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan.
- Prior to 2001, all of the above countries, except for Uzbekistan, were members of the Shanghai Five. Following the accession of Uzbekistan to the organisation in 2001, the Shanghai Five was renamed the SCO.
- Currently, eight countries enjoy the status of the SCO full members: India (admitted in 2017), Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan (admitted in 2017), Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
- Four countries — Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia — have an observer status with the SCO.
- Six countries — Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka — have a dialogue partner status.
STRUCTURE OF SCO
- Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of SCO is a permanent body based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Objective of RATS is based upon Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism.
- Main objectives of SCO is to strengthen mutual trust and neighbourliness among member states, promote their effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research, technology and culture, education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas. Making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
IMPORTANCE FOR INDIA
India’s security, geopolitical, strategic and economic interests are closely intertwined with developments in the Central Asian region.
- Energy Security: Central Asian region is richly endowed with energy resources which India is trying to gain access to through Chabahar port construction in Iran and construction of International North-South Transport Corridor.
- Economic Growth: SCO has high economic potential because 40% of world’s population lives in its countries, and they produce more than 22% of global GDP, that is by 2025, expected to reach 38-40%.
- Security Cooperation: RATS is viewed by India as a platform to access intelligence and information and as a solution to regional security cooperation as SCO remains committed to countering international terrorism, drug trafficking and resolving conflict in Afghanistan.
- Gateway to Eurasia: India’s membership in the SCO is an opportunity for India to engage the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) thereby Eurasian market.
- Connect to Central Asia: SCO is a potential platform to advance India’s Connect Central Asia policy.
- Enhanced status: SCO membership also bolsters India’s status as a major Pan-Asian player, which is boxed in the South Asian paradigm.
- Value alignment: “Shanghai spirit” emphasizes on harmony, non-interference in others’ internal affairs, and non-alignment – values that India has always cherished and upheld.
- Forum for bilateral cooperation 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.
- Platform for India to engage Pakistan: In the absence of the SAARC summit, the SCO summit gives an opportunity for Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet informally, on the sidelines and to engage in anti- terrorism cooperation. Thus, SCO shall provide a platform to resolve their differences.
CHALLENGES FOR INDIA IN SCO
- Dominance of China and Russia: Russia and China as a co-founder of the SCO are the dominant powers in the groupings, thus limiting India’s ability to assert itself.
- China’s Belt and Road initiative: All group members except India have endorsed China’s BRI initiative. India on the other hand has repeatedly oppose China’s Belt and Road Initiative citing sovereignty issues arising out of CPEC.
- India-Pakistan rivalry: India and Pakistan are on continuous confrontation that makes it difficult to adhere to the idea of “good-neighbourliness” prescribed in Article 1 of the SCO charter.
- Definition of terrorism: India’s definition of terrorism is different from the definition of SCO under RATS. For SCO, terrorism coincides with regime destabilization, whereas for India it is related to state- sponsored cross border terrorism.
Thus, it can be said that SCO is part of India’s stated policy of pursuing “multi-alignments.” Hence, India must continue to look for positive engagement with the member nations of this organization.