India takes its place as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Astana. An SCO membership has many obvious advantages: being a part of a major security coalition in Asia, with easy access to the energy-rich ‘stans’, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
It is an important forum on counter-terrorism cooperation, connectivity, and on resolving the situation in Afghanistan.
Membership may thus have seemed a good idea when India first took observer status in 2005, and when it applied for full member status in 2014 — but in 2017 so much has changed in India’s foreign policy posture that the sustainability of its SCO membership is in doubt.
All SCO members are a part of B&R and endorse it.
In 2015, SCO heads of government in Zhengzhou issued a joint statement fully supporting the B&R (then called Silk Road Economic Belt) as the SCO’s vehicle for regional economic cooperation.
SCO is a security alliance, not a cultural or geographically based coalition, and its charter in 2001 specifies confidence-building in “military fields”. Subsequent statements of the SCO, including at Astana in 2005, commit them to “jointly preserving regional peace, security and stability; and establishing a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order”.
The SCO has been often called the “Anti-NATO”, meant to counterbalance U.S. and Europe power structures.
It would seem incongruous to reconcile this with India’s close military ties with the U.S.
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