The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) serves as a vital platform encompassing political, economic, security, and defence dimensions across Eurasia. It holds critical significance for regional connectivity, energy interests, economic cooperation, addressing non-traditional security concerns such as terrorism and climate change, and reinforcing cultural ties, aligning seamlessly with India’s continental diplomacy strategy.
However, the organization faces numerous challenges:
- Mutual Rivalries: Contradictions between India and China, the India-Pakistan conflict, and the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border dispute hinder mutual consensus within the SCO.
- Lack of Cooperation: The failure to reach consensus on issues like defining lists of terrorists, separatists, and extremists within the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) underscores cooperation challenges.
- Growing Factionalism: The formation of an Iran-Russia and China axis and anti-Western orientation run counter to the organization’s regional focus.
- Expansion of SCO: New bids for membership, such as those from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, often reflect individual geopolitical interests rather than a belief in the collective ethos and objectives of the organization.
India can play a constructive role in the SCO by:
- Sponsoring Digital Transformation: India’s expertise in digital payment interfaces like UPI aligns with the SCO’s economic and technological agenda.
- Boosting Regional Connectivity: Leveraging its economic strength and intellectual capital, India can enhance regional connectivity, exemplified by its involvement in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
- Informal Negotiations: Using the SCO as a platform for informal Track 2 negotiations with countries like Pakistan and China can promote confidence-building and regional stability.
- Cultural and Economic Ties: India’s historical and cultural connections with Eurasia, along with its youthful population, can foster greater cooperation within the organization.
India should adopt a constructivist approach, seeking common ground and focusing on collaboration in line with the New Delhi Declaration. This approach can counter radicalization, facilitate peaceful conflict resolution, and promote regional stability within the SCO.