Shanghai Cooperation Organization SCO Organization

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SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION (SCO)

  • Context:
    • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit 2022 was held recently in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
    • Samarkand declaration was signed by the member states.
    • India takes over the Presidency of the SCO for 2023.
  • Backgrounds
    • Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a permanent intergovernmental international organization.
    • Its creation was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai (China) by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan.
    • It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.
    • Prior to the creation of SCO in 2001, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan were members of the Shanghai Five.
    • Shanghai Five (1996) emerged from a series of border demarcation and demilitarization talks which the four former Soviet republics held with China to ensure stability along the borders.
    • Following the accession of Uzbekistan to the organization in 2001, the Shanghai Five was renamed the SCO.
    • India and Pakistan became members in 2017.
    • On 17th September, 2021, it was announced that Iran would become a full member of the SCO.
    • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter was signed during the St. Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in June 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003.
    • The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
  • Member Countries
    • SCO comprises eight member states, namely the Republic of India, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan.
    • The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Belarus, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Mongolia are the observer states in SCO.
    • SCO has six dialogue partners, viz, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the Republic of Turkey, and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
  • Structure:
    • Heads of State Council – The supreme SCO body which decides its internal functioning and its interaction with other States & international organisations, and considers international issues.
    • Heads of Government Council – Approves the budget, considers and decides upon issues related to economic spheres of interaction within SCO.
    • Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs – Considers issues related to day-to-day activities.
    • Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) – Established to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism.

SCO RATS:

  • The regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of SCO is a permanent body based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The objective of RATS is based upon the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism. RATS possess information on terrorist organizations and terrorists.
  • The military exercise ‘Peace Mission 2018’ was conducted in Russia and became the 1st  platform after UN Peace Mission Peace Keeping Missions for joint military engagement between India and Pakistan.

Operations

  • Initially, the SCO focused on mutual intraregional efforts to curb terrorism, separatism and extremism in Central Asia.
  • In 2006, SCO’s agenda widened to include combatting international drug trafficking as a source of financing global.
  • In 2008, SCO actively participated in bringing back stability in Afghanistan.
  • In 2003, SCO member states signed a 20-year Programme of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation for the establishment of a free trade zone within the territory under the SCO member states.

  • Objectives:
    • Strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states.
    • Promoting effective cooperation in -politics, trade & economy, research & technology and culture.
    • Enhancing ties in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, etc.
    • Maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region.
    • Establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political & economic order
    • Moving towards the establishment of democratic, fair and rational international political and economic order.
India and Shangai cooperation organisation (SCO):
  • Shangai cooperation organisation (SCO) is seen as an eastern counter-balance to NATO and India’s membership will allow the country to push effective action in combating terrorism and security issues.
  • The presence of India and China, the world’s most populous countries, makes SCO the organisation with the largest population coverage.
  • India for the first time hosted the heads of governments (HoG) meeting of SCO, three years after joining the eight-nation group in 2020. 
  • The SCO’s significance for India mainly lies in economics and geopolitics with the Eurasian states.
  • SCO is a potential platform to advance India’s Central Asia policy. The SCO member states are India’s extended neighborhood where India has both economic and security imperatives.
  • The ‘SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group’to stabilize Afghanistan provides India a vital counter to some of the other groupings it is a part of.
  • The SCO provides the only multilateral platform for India to deal with near Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Acknowledging the strategic importance of the region and SCO, the Indian Prime Minister had articulated the foundational dimension of Eurasia as being ‘SECURE’:
  • S for Security of our citizens,
  • E for Economic development for all,
  • C for Connecting the region,
  • U for Unite our people,
  • R for Respect for Sovereignty and Integrity, and
  • E for Environment protection.
Challenges ahead of India
  • Central Asia connectivity: a major thorn in India’s engagement with Eurasia remains the denial of direct land connectivity to Afghanistan and beyond by Pakistan. The lack of connectivity has dampened the development of energy ties between the hydrocarbon-rich region and India
  • Russia- China: Initially, Russia pushed India’s inclusion into the SCO to balance China’s power. But Russia and China are growing closer, and India has been promoting better relations with the US.
  • Belt and Road Initiative: While India has made its opposition to BRI clear, all other SCO members have embraced the Chinese project.
  • India-Pakistan: SCO members have, in the past, expressed fears of the organisation being held hostage to India’s and Pakistan’s adverse relationship.
  • Way Forward:
    • India needs to improve connectivity with Central Asia through the Chabahar port and enter into Ashgabat agreement should be utilized for a stronger presence in Eurasia along with a focus on International North-South Corridor (INSTC).
    • India and China must co-exist peacefully for the era to be viewed as the Asian century.
    • SCO’s goal on promoting economic cooperation, trade, energy, and regional connectivity should be used to improve relations with Pakistan and persuade it to unblock India’s access to Eurasia and impetus to projects like
    • The increasing terrorist activities in the region make it imperative for SCO countries to develop a ‘cooperative and sustainable security’ framework and make the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure more effective.
    • The Eurasian strategy should be envisioned to serve India’s regional interests to ensure nation-building through development partnerships, maintaining sovereignty, preventing the region from terrorism and extremism.



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