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Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  • 20 Nov 2018
  • 7 min read

What is SCO?

  • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation.
  • It’s a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation aiming to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.
  • It was created in 2001.
  • The SCO Charter was signed in 2002, and entered into force in 2003.
  • It is a statutory document which outlines the organisation's goals and principles, as well as its structure and core activities.
  • The SCO's official languages are Russian and Chinese.

Genesis

  • 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 organisation in 2001, the Shanghai Five was renamed the SCO.
  • India and Pakistan became members in 2017.

Membership

  1. Kazakhstan
  2. China
  3. Kyrgyzstan
  4. Russia
  5. Tajikistan
  6. Uzbekistan
  7. India
  8. Pakistan

Observer states

  • Afghanistan
  • Belarus
  • Iran
  • Mongolia

Dialogue Partner

  • Azerbaijan
  • Armenia
  • Cambodia
  • Nepal
  • Turkey
  • Sri Lanka

Objectives

  • Strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness 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.

Guiding Principle – Based on Shanghai Spirit

  • Internal policy based on the principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, mutual consultations, respect for cultural diversity, and a desire for common development.
  • External policy in accordance with the principles of non-alignment, non-targeting any third country, and openness.

Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

  • 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 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 Secretariat – Based in Beijing to provide informational, analytical & organisational support.

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.
  • At the same time, the SCO took up a variety of economic activities:
    • 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.

Strengths of SCO

  • The SCO covers 40%of the global population, nearly 20% of the global GDP and 22% of the world’s land mass.
  • The SCO has a strategically important role in Asia due to its geographical significance - this enables it to control the Central Asia and limit the American influence in region.
  • SCO is seen as counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Challenges for SCO

  • The SCO security challenges includes combating terrorism, extremism and separatism;; drug and weapons trafficking, illegal immigration, etc.
  • Despite being geographically close, the rich diversity in member’s history, backgrounds, language, national interests and form of government, wealth and culture makes the SCO decision making challenging.

Importance for India

  • India’s membership of SCO can help in achieving regional integration, promote connectivity and stability across borders.

Security

  • India through RATS can improve its counterterrorism abilities by working toward intelligence sharing, law enforcement and developing best practices and technologies.
  • Through the SCO, India can also work on anti-drug trafficking and small arms proliferation.
  • Cooperation on common challenges of terrorism and radicalisation.

Energy

  • India being an energy deficient country with increasing demands for energy, SCO provides it with an opportunity to meet its energy requirements through regional diplomacy.
    • Talks on the construction of stalled pipelines like the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline; IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline can get a much needed push through the SCO.

Trade

  • SCO provides direct access to Central Asia – overcoming the main hindrance in flourishing of trade between India and Central Asia.
  • SCO acts as an alternative route to Central Asia.
  • Economic Ties - Central Asian countries provids India with a market for its IT, telecommunications, banking, finance and pharmaceutical industries.

Geopolitical

  • Central Asia is a part of India's Extended Neighbourhood – SCO provides India an opportunity to pursue the “Connect Central Asian Policy”.
  • Helps India fulfil its aspiration of playing an active role in its extended neighbourhood as well as checking the ever growing influence of China in Eurasia.
  • Platform for India to simultaneously engage with its traditional friend Russia as well as its rivals, China and Pakistan.

Challenges of SCO Membership for India

  • Pakistan’s inclusion in SCO poses potential difficulties for India.
  • India’s ability to assert itself would be limited and it may have to play second fiddle since China and Russia are co-founders of SCO and its dominant powers.
  • India may also have to either dilute its growing partnership with the West or engage in a delicate balancing act - as SCO has traditionally adopted an anti-Western posture.
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