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The Growing Importance of SCO at the Indian and Global Level

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation abbreviated to SCO is an eight-member multinational organisation. Currently, it is the largest regional bloc which is a mix of economic, political, and security blocs. The official languages of the organisation include Russian and Chinese. The chairmanship of the organisation is performed on a rotational basis every year among the members. The SCO represents 40% of the world’s population, 30% of the world’s GDP and 22% of the area of the world occupied by the organisation. We will look deep into the importance of SCO in this article.

The Shanghai Cooperation was in news recently because of its latest Summit at Samarkand, Uzbekistan where leaders of member countries met and discussed topics of global concern. This year the organisation was headed by Uzbekistan as its president state.

It has two major structures namely:

  1. The Secretariat of SCO – headed at Beijing, China
  2. Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure – headed at Tashkent, Uzbekistan

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The back story and the formation process

SCO was formed on 15th June 2001. The SCO charter was signed in 2002 during the St Petersburg Heads of State meeting and with this, the SCO came into force in September 2003. Before the SCO, the Shanghai five group (1996) was in action in five counties participating as its members namely China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Russia. With the joining of Uzbekistan in 2001, the Shanghai five was renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

The members of the SCO

  1. China
  2. Kazakhstan
  3. Kyrgyzstan
  4. Russia
  5. Tajikistan
  6. Uzbekistan
  7. India (became a full member of SCO in 2017)
  8. Pakistan (gained full membership in 2017)
  9. Iran will join the organisation in 2023 and is set to become the newest member of SCO.

Aim of SCO

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation strives towards –

  1. Building mutual trust, mutual understanding and cooperation among members to enhance neighbor-friendly relations.
  2. Working on peace and security in the region.
  3. Enhancing trade, economy, education, energy, and tourism of members and the SCO as a whole.
  4. Strengthening connectivity and approaches for the development of the organisation.
  5. Ensuring political, economic and cultural growth of the Eurasian region which is referred to as the Eurasian political, economic and security alliance.

SCO for Indian Perspective

India was made an observer at Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in 2005 and joined the organisation as a full member in 2017. The SCO’s importance in India lies in economics, connectivity, and geopolitics with Central Asian countries.

For India, SCO is the connectivity medium for regional transit to Central Asia through Pakistan and Afghanistan and now joining of Iran has also opened new gates for India. Central Asia is an important region for India as it is also a market for Indian IT, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals. The recent turbulence in Eurasia opens new opportunities for India to increase its current limiting stand in the region.

Being an energy-deficient country India is dependent on SCO to fulfil its energy requirements through regional talks. Also, through this organisation, India plays a major role in its neighborhood and checks on its neighbors, especially on the growing influence of China in the region.

Relations between India and China are a key focus area for India. The SCO plays a great role in it. Last year India and China were not seen on good terms, so the SCO’s significance was not seen much for India as China and Russia are referred to as the key players of the organisation. But this year we saw the change in India- China dynamics. The armies of the two nations were seen disengaging from PP 15 in Ladakh just before the Summit which was held on 15-16 September of the current year.

India this year in the Summit urged other members to give each other members ‘right to transit’. India focused on the full right to transit for enhancing connectivity.

India through SCO is trying to promote millet. The organisation can play a lead role in making the upcoming year the International Year of Millets and thus can be proven as an important platform.

In the current Summit, it was decided that Varanasi will serve as the first cultural and tourism capital of SCO for 2022-23. This highlights the importance India holds as a member of SCO and how SCO also needs India as its active member. The Cultural and tourism capital of India will promote the cultural and rich heritage of the nation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. This will also result in increased tourism among the members of SCO.

India is an important country for the Organisation and is set to chair as president of the organisation for the upcoming year 2023.

Significance of the SCO at the global level

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is the largest regional intergovernmental bloc. This organisation is also marked as the ‘Alliance of the East’ due to its growing role in Asia -Pacific. It has been the main security pillar of the region. It is also compared to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and is sometimes also referred to as Anti-NATO.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation entrenched its relations with United Nations in 2004 wherein it gained observer status in the UN General Assembly.

SCO had always worked in the maintenance of peace and security globally. In 2008, it played a great role in the stability of Afghanistan. From time-to-time SCO has played a role in combatting international drug trafficking. One of the SCO’s huge agendas lies in fighting against terrorism. This year also, a major emphasis was lead on matters of global concern in recent times such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the pandemic and the food crisis. The SCO is of strategic importance to Asia and is also known to limit America’s role in the region.

Through SCO member states tried to communicate to Russia about the impact of war and loss of resources and the underlying food crisis emerging due to war-like situations in the region. The recently concluded Summit of the organization was a matter of discussion globally. The leaders of the nation discussed promoting trade and tourism at the organizational level and also thereby enhancing global peace and security.  Due to the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis, there were hindrances in the supply chains across the globe, SCO as an organisation is looking forward to resolving the unparalleled energy and food crisis. It is committed to working and discussed on the development of definitive and diversified supply chains in the region. The members of the SCO are putting in efforts to create a larger impact of the organisation globally and the expansion and enlargement of the SCO will result in increased cooperation, trade and ties among the members which will put the Eurasian region in spotlight in the geopolitics.

Awantika Pratap
Awantika Pratap
Awantika Pratap is a writing enthusiast with a deep interest in social, gender, digital, and governance fields. She is a sociology graduate from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

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