As of July 2015, India has been accorded full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) along with Pakistan at its Ufa summit held in Russia.
- SCO is a Eurasian economic, political and military organisation
- HQ: Beijing, China
- Established: 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders 6 countries viz. China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan
- Since 2005, India was having an Observer status of SCO and had applied for full membership in 2014. India would be finally ratified in the member list by 2016
Connecting the dots with SCO
Per Chinese and Russian scholars, creation of SCO helped address the security problems and enhance economic cooperation in the Central Asia region. The Western discourse, however, has tended to see the SCO as a mechanism to counter-balance the influence of the United States in the region. Both are correct!
SCO is considered and tagged as anti-west. Behind the veils, it is alleged that SCO is going to be a NATO like military alliance in East. You might expect a question on that line and be asked to put India’s context in place.
However, China exaggeratedly says that the SCO was founded on a principle of non-alignment and functions as an effective stabilizer for regional security and peace. China has always maintained that the focus of SCO is on combating the “three evil forces” – terrorism, separatism, and extremism – and other unconventional security menaces.
There are multiple benefits for India as well as the SCO which is concerned with security and stability in the Eurasian space.
- India’s presence will help moderate the anti-West bias of the grouping, which will calm Washington’s nerves to a considerable extent
- Greater engagement with India will also aid the organisation’s capability to improve regional economic prosperity and security
- Membership will give India an opportunity to play an active role in China’s Silk Road initiative which plans to link a new set of routes from the north and east of the country to an old network of routes in the greater Eurasian region.
- Indian interest in International North-South Transport Corridor to connect Mumbai with Abbas port in Iran. This route is shorter than the existing Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea
- SCO may also serve as guarantor for projects such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipelines, which are held by India due to security concerns.
India’s entry is also likely to tip the balance of power in favor of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Challenges ahead for SCO?
It is naive to expect that India’s differences with China regarding the border or its ties with Pakistan will magically disappear. The inclusion of Pakistan in the SCO will also make it difficult for India to enjoy a level playing field.
Pakistan, which is embroiled in a domestic political crisis, may not be so willing to challenge hardliners in its country, and go along with India in promoting peace and stability in the Eurasian space. We have seen how Indo-Pak presence in SAARC makes it difficult to ink key pacts.
The clash of interests in a post – 2014 Afghanistan makes prospects of cooperation difficult. There is also a possibility that China may collude with Pakistan to suffocate India’s voice in the decision making process.
Other than that, India will have to balance the geopolitical ambitions of China and Russia to evolve a mutually beneficial framework.
SCO becomes a reasonably hot topic post India’s accession to the member status. If you are comfortable with IR, try these articles –