- Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Qingdao, China was the first SCO summit attended by India as a full-fledged member.
Significance for India
- SCO now has about half the world’s population and a quarter of its GDP. Its boundary extends southwards to the Indian Ocean.
- The SCO’s relevance for India lies in geography, economics and geopolitics.
- India has important economic and security interests in these countries.
- With India having complicated ties with neighbours, it makes sense to strengthen ties with its neighbours’ neighbours.
- With Pakistan joining the Organisation and Afghanistan and Iran knocking on the doors for membership, the logic of India’s membership becomes stronger.
- Expanding opportunities for India in Central Asia: India’s relations with Central Asian countries have been constrained by lack of overland access through Pakistan and Afghanistan/Iran, because of political and/or security reasons.
- SCO should help in this regard.
- Russian and Chinese officials suggested that harmonious cooperation in the SCO may pave the way for an India-Pakistan rapprochement, recalling that SCO membership had facilitated resolution of China’s boundary disputes with Russia and Central Asian countries.
- The SCO is expected to nudge both countries to cooperate in sensitive areas. One example is the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO, which coordinates cooperation for security and stability, through intelligence-sharing on criminal and terrorist activities. India and Pakistan have to find ways of cooperating in the RATS.
- Defence cooperation is another tricky area: enhanced linkages between armed forces is an SCO objective. India has agreed to participate in the SCO’s counter-terrorism military exercises in Russia later this year, when Indian and Pakistani troops will operate together.
- Reconciling Indian and Pakistani perspectives in the SCO’s initiatives on Afghanistanwould be yet another challenge.
- The challenge for India — besides that of security and defence cooperation with Pakistan — may come from increasing Chinese dominance of the SCO.
About SCO-Shanghai Cooperation Organization
- SCO grew out of the Shanghai Five grouping — of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan — which was set up in 1996 to resolve boundary disputes between China and each of the four other members.
- It admitted Uzbekistan in 2001, re-christened itself the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and broadened its agenda to include political, economic and security cooperation.
- It admitted India and Pakistan as full members in 2017.