International Relations Prelims cum Mains

A test and a chance: why SCO matters

Why in News?

  • India will attend the SCO summit in Qingdao (China), on June 9-10, amid of several tectonic shifts in world politics where old assumptions have been challenged, and new variables have entered the mix.


SCO summit-2018

Recent development in geopolitics

  • World order:
    • The United States has pulled out of the nuclear deal (or JCPOA) between the P-5+1 and Iran, while the Europeans, Chinese and Russians have stayed on.
    • US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are scheduled to meet in Singapore on June 12, the first ever meeting between the leaders of the two countries.
    • The US has delivered a public rebuke to Pakistan for not cracking down on terrorists, and suspended military assistance to it.
    • The US has imposed sanctions on Russia under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which affects Indian defence purchases from its strongest defence partner.
    • The chemical attack in Salisbury has sharply escalated Russian-western tensions, and led to UK and Russia expelling each other’s diplomats.


  • India’s relations:
    • After the two-and-a-half-month standoff at Doklam, India and China have attempted to reset relations with an informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in Wuhan.
    • Prime Minister Modi has made historic separate visits to Israel and Palestine, completing their de-hyphenation.
    • The India-US-Japan-Australia quadrilateral has been revived against the backdrop of Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.


Importance of 2018 summit:

  • India-China:
    • India will have formal meeting with China on sideline of SCO summit where PM Modi will have challenges to address and opportunities to harvest.
    • After the frank and fruitful exchanges in Wuhan, the summit will provide the Indian and Chinese leaders another opportunity to meet and talk.
    • Doklam was resolved just before the Xiamen BRICS summit last year; the summit in Qingdao could be another marquee event for China to use to build ties with its neighbours.


  • India-Pakistan:
    • Earlier at the annual summit of SCO in 2009, India’s PM gave Pakistan’s PM a tough message: “I am happy to meet you, but my mandate is to tell you that the territory of Pakistan must not be used for terrorism.”
    • This year’s summit provides an opportunity for the Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet informally on the sidelines of a multilateral event.
    • The two sides are obliged to cooperate on issues of mutual interest without bringing in their bilateral disputes.
    • Signing off on joint counter-terrorism exercises will be a new form of engagement between the two militaries.


  • India-Russia:
    • Russia has been India’s staunchest supporter in the SCO, having lobbied hard with Beijing for years to ensure its entry into the grouping.
    • India has been clear that its relationship with Russia would not be impacted by the West’s approach towards the Russian’s government.
    • The conversation with President Vladimir Putin will continue, picking up the threads from the informal summit in Sochi last month.


  • India-Iran:
    • Similar red lines will be in play in India’s dealings with Iran, an observer state that has applied for full SCO membership.
    • India has a powerful strategic interest in Iran’s Chabahar port, and PM Modi will have the opportunity to interact with the Iranian leader at the SCO.
    • The Trump administration is hostile to Iran, but India has been seeking to signal to US the alignment of interests in Chabahar, which allows access to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.


  • Others issues:
    • While the West has been skeptical of India’s sitting down with the less-than-free regimes of Central Asia, Russia and China, India has always been careful to not signal alignment with these countries on issues of governance.
    • Indeed, the SCO summit gives India an opportunity to showcase the kind of power it wants to be.


Addition information

About SCO:

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • These countries, except for Uzbekistan had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organisation.
  • The “Shanghai Spirit” — the SCO’s driving philosophy — emphasises harmony, working by consensus, respect for other cultures, non-interference in the internal affairs of others, and non-alignment.
  • The SCO’s main objective of working cooperatively against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism sits well with India’s interests.
  • In 2015, the SCO decided to admit India and Pakistan as full members. And in 2017, both nations become full members.



Importance of India’s membership for SCO:

  • India’s entry into the China-dominated SCO is seen as a major milestone as it is expected to increase the group’s heft in regional geopolitics and trade negotiations besides giving it a pan-Asian hue.
  • With the expansion of the grouping, the SCO will now represent over 40% of humanity and nearly 20% of the global GDP.
  • India, as the largest economy in southern Asia, has much more to offer for the economic development of Central Asian countries.
  • India’s inclusion offers a huge potential for development and expands the influence of the organisation in international and regional affairs in various fields, especially in security, geopolitics and the economy.
  • Experts say India’s inclusion may even bring down Beijing’s overarching influence over the SCO.



Importance of SCO’s membership for India:

  • Regional player: Becoming a full member of the body will strengthen India’s position in Central Asia. It will also help the country’s aim to regional integration; promote connectivity and stability across borders. ·
  • Defence cooperation: As an SCO member, India is expected to have a bigger say in pressing for concerted action in dealing with terrorism as well as on issues relating to security and defence in the region.
  • Energy security: India is also likely to get greater access to major gas and oil exploration projects in Central Asia as many of the SCO countries have huge reserves of oil and natural gas.
  • Counter-terror: India is also keen on deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.
  • India- Pakistan relation
    • The SCO membership offers a platform for India to engage Pakistan in a wider regional setting.
    • The entry of India and Pakistan into SCO may help boost anti-terrorism cooperation between the two countries and provide a platform to resolve their differences.

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