The SCO and Its Global Geopolitical Evolution

  • The attendance of Chinese and Russian defence ministers to attend a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) ministerial conference in Delhi has focused attention on the SCO’s larger geopolitical growth. While the clamour for membership demonstrates the forum’s attractiveness, its internal contradictions and incapacity to deal with intra-state and inter-state issues among member nations raise concerns about the forum’s strategic coherence.
  • Everything you need to know about SCO Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the region’s security and economic infrastructure disintegrated, necessitating the establishment of new entities. China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan were the original Shanghai Five.
  • The SCO was established in 2001, with Uzbekistan as a founding member. In 2017, it was expanded to cover India and Pakistan. Since its inception, the SCO has prioritised non-traditional regional security, including counter-terrorism as a top priority.
  • China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan are the eight member countries. Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia are the four observer states, and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey are the six dialogue partners.

SCO Executive Branch Functionaries

  • The SCO has an executive branch that is led by the Secretary-General and is in charge of the organization’s day-to-day operations.
  • The Council of Heads of State is the SCO’s highest decision-making body, meeting annually to discuss and make decisions on major topics.
  • The Council of Heads of Government is the SCO’s second most significant decision-making body, meeting annually to discuss and make decisions on economic and trade problems.
  • RATS (Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure): The SCO has RATS, which is in charge of coordinating member states’ efforts to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism.

The SCO paradox

  • Even as the Eurasian forum appears to be appealing to a rising number of regional states, internal tensions are casting a shadow over its strategic coherence.
  • Russia-Ukraine conflict: Russia’s war in Ukraine raises concerns about Moscow’s ability to maintain primacy in its backyard.
  • China’s domination in Asia: China’s rise raises the likelihood of Beijing establishing itself as the dominant force in Asia.

Membership The SCO’s Glamour and Attractiveness

  • Comparison of long lines for membership at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the SCO:
  • Central European countries’ attitudes towards NATO: Many Central European countries, including Ukraine, desire to join NATO after Finland and Sweden.
  • Several significant regional powers in India’s neighbourhood are lining up to join the SCO, which already has eight members: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
  • Iran is set to join the SCO, and Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia among observers who would like to follow Tehran’s lead.
  • Then there’s the outstanding list of present and prospective conversation partners, which includes Azerbaijan, Armenia, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates from the Middle East, as well as Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka from the Subcontinent.
  • SCO is all-encompassing: Unlike NATO, the SCO is open to anyone, and its appeal underscores the growth of non-Western security institutions.
  • Turkey wants to be part of SCO: Turkey, a long-standing member of NATO, wants to be part of SCO certainly highlights the value of being part of a forum led by Russia and China that today are at loggerheads with the West.

Counter-terrorism and Internal Conflicts Preoccupation

  • Internal conflicts have become a top priority: For many years, the SCO’s primary concern has been counter-terrorism. Internal conflicts among member nations and partners are becoming a larger priority for the SCO.
  • For example, domestic instabilities in Afghanistan have been a major impetus for the SCO. Despite all of the hype about the SCO becoming the regional security arbitrator, it was a direct agreement between the US and the Taliban that transformed the Afghan scenario.
  • Russia’s Role and Ambitions in Central Asia: Russia’s muscle and Beijing’s money provide a sound foundation for their strategic division of work in Central Asia to keep Western powers out. However, while Russia may be a protector of Central Asian regimes, it may equally be a predator.
  • China’s expanding Regional Influence: China’s expanding regional influence will come at the expense of Russia, as China replaces Ukraine as the senior partner in the bilateral relationship with Russia. China’s stated support for Central Asian governments’ sovereignty is a straw in the wind. Shared borders, increased political significance, and developing regional security profiles all point to China being a Central Asian force to be reckoned with in the not-too-distant future.

The Importance of the SCO for India

  • Central Asia connection: India’s SCO membership allows it to engage with Central Asian nations, Russia, and China in order to promote regional stability, security, and economic cooperation.
  • Security cooperation: The SCO focuses on countering terrorism, separatism, and extremism in the area, which is especially important to India.
  • Consensus on CBT: For decades, India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism. India has been collaborating closely with the RATS to share intelligence and coordinate regional counter-terrorism activities.
  • Economic push: The SCO has established trade and economic cooperation structures such as the SCO Business Council, the SCO Interbank Consortium, and the SCO Development Bank.
  • Cultural cooperation: The organization’s goal is to foster cultural exchanges among member countries, and it has established structures for cooperation in areas such as education, research, and technology.

SCO issues (Indian context)

  • Pakistan’s presence: India has accused Pakistan of utilising SCO forums to promote anti-India propaganda and misinformation.
  • China’s dominance: India has expressed worry over China’s dominance in the organisation, as well as its attempts to use the platform to advance its strategic objectives in the area.
  • Limited economic benefits: Despite being a member of the organisation for more than a decade, India’s trade with other SCO members remains limited, and the organization’s full potential has not been realised.
  • While the organization’s principal goal is to combat terrorism, India has raised worry about the organization’s limited counter-terrorism cooperation among member governments.
  • India’s views and concerns have not been effectively represented in the organisation, despite its status as a key force in the area.

India’s difficult role in the SCO

  • All these decades, India’s participation with the SCO has been predicated on Russian primacy in the region and Moscow’s support for India’s regional interests.
  • A robust and autonomous Russia is vital for India’s internal Asian balance. However, Delhi is unable to guarantee Moscow’s strategic independence from Beijing; this is dependent on Russian strategic decisions.
  • India’s duty in the SCO must now be to preserve its own interests in the face of a fast shifting regional power distribution in favour of China.

@the end

This year, India is chairing the Eurasian regional conference, and it has a number of bilateral issues to negotiate with its other SCO members. However, its duty in the SCO must now be to preserve its own interests in the face of a rapidly changing regional power distribution in favour of China. The task is more difficult because India lacks direct geographic access to the landlocked region.

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