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Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a multilateral organisation made up of six countries dedicated to Eurasian security and economic cooperation. SCO encompasses 60% of Eurasia's landmass, 40% of world's population and 20% of global GDP.

Members: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India (2017), Pakistan (2017), Iran (In Process)

Observers: Afghanistan, Mongolia and Belarus

What are the guiding principles of SCO?

The SCO is guided by the philosophical concepts of mutual confidence, friendliness, and good neighbourly relations, which include growth via agreement, decision-making through a constructive conversation, and fostering mutual confidence, friendliness, and good neighbourly relations. 

Origins and Development

Shanghai Five: The SCO was established by China as 'Shanghai Five' in 1996 to address border security problems with four of its neighbours. The founding members were China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.

Change to SCO: The Shanghai Summit in 2001 formally admitted Uzbekistan as a member and gave birth to the SCO in its current form. The charter was signed by the heads of state of the SCO in 2002, and it formally established the organization's objectives, principles, structures, and modes of operation.

India, Iran and Pakistan become Observers: The 2005 Astana Summit allowed India, Iran, and Pakistan to attend as observers. Mongolia was later allowed as an observer, and Sri Lanka and Belarus as 'conversation partners.' Turkmenistan has been invited to SCO summits on a special basis.

Afghanistan participation: At the 2012 Beijing Summit, Afghanistan was asked to participate in the dialogue as an observer, while Turkey was invited to attend as a dialogue partner.

India and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Old Linkages: India's connection with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is not new. The ancient silk routes that covered the modern-day SCO's continent are civilisationally related to India. At the time, these networks boosted transcontinental development and catalysed cultural linkages that are still present today.

India can contribute to SCO's success: Because India is a developing and emerging economy with a large market, it is a repository of human, scientific, and technological knowledge, and it has over six decades of valuable development and security experience, it is thought that India can contribute more to the SCO's enrichment and success. They are guided by the multilateralism mantra or principle, which argues that the common good of all must take precedence over bilateral differences.

Developments in Central Asia: The shifting security situation in Afghanistan, capacity building in Central Asia, connectivity with the Eurasian area, counter-terrorism and anti-narcotics cooperation, energy cooperation, and strengthening economic and investment links are among India's key objectives within the SCO.

India - A Full Member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

What are the benefits to India in becoming a full SCO member?

  • Better Access to Resources: Membership in the group might provide India better access to Central Asian energy resources, improve trade between India and SCO members, and help the country fight terrorism more effectively.

  • Stabilise Afghanistan: India is becoming increasingly concerned about the security threats posed by Afghanistan's deteriorating condition. Not only can the Asian Eurasian block help to stabilise Afghanistan but it can also help to build a joint platform to fight terrorism and reduce and mitigate the threat of drug trafficking. As a result, the SCO is an important organisation that can serve as a legitimate regional forum for debating Afghanistan's problems.

  • Combat Terrorism: Terrorism, separatism, and extremism are the three regional evils that the SCO seeks to combat. The SCO's permanent implementing agency, the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), coordinates SCO countries' efforts to combat these three evils. As an "essential regional response to this challenge," India appreciates the increasing cooperation within RATS.

  • Energy Security: Several SCO members have abundant energy resources (hydrocarbons and uranium), and they can help India meet its energy needs significantly.

  • Economic Integration with Central Asia: Furthermore, India's economic integration with Central Asian countries is in line with the country's Central Asia Connect Policy. In areas such as information technology, management, and entrepreneurial development, India already collaborates with SCO members. The SCO is strategically important for India since it is an organisation that exists outside of the areas of influence of the United States and its allies.

However, the regional alliance is unable to take a proactive posture and build a coherent policy due to a substantial trust gap between Russia and China. Inconsistencies will not be resolved even if the SCO is extended. The inclusion of India, Pakistan, and Iran could intensify tensions already present. As a result, India will have to be cautious in deciding how far it wants to participate in an organisation that also includes China and Pakistan.

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