SCO: India wins it all
Today’s world is witness to the implementation of significant geopolitical developments. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine can undoubtedly be identified as the immediate cause of disruption in the established standard operating procedures of operations, despite the fact that the dynamics of how global politics and economics functions are constantly challenged by changes in technology, bilateral and multilateral relations, as well as events of global significance. Additionally, there are the underlying, subtle changes that have been developing for years: the booming economies of the developing world, the rise and expansion of Chinese power in the world economy and politics, and the unparalleled progress of technology.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit was held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, a few days back. The summit has received particular attention from the international community. Fifteen heads of state, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi, attended the summit. This is the first face-to-face discussion between leaders of the SCO member states since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The meeting included Iran as the ninth member of the SCO and issued the Samarkand Declaration to expound the SCO’s position on a series of international issues.
The SCO meeting in Samarkand was high on rhetoric but little in the way of actual, demonstrable ground action. From India’s perspective, the summit’s outcome, the joint Samarkand declaration, served as a reminder to rival member states to uphold peace and security by resolving all international and regional disputes through diplomatic, political, and peaceful means in order to strengthen ties among the member states and ensure that their peoples continue to be friends. When the SCO Member States signed the “Treaty on Long-term Neighborliness, Friendship, and Cooperation of the SCO Member States” in 2007, they made a commitment to this.
The eight members of the SCO, representing about one-third of mankind, are expected to resolve their differences amicably, but it is ironic that the SCO’s primary proponent, China, has openly flouted these rules. Even though China has launched a global PR campaign that features actors and foreign ministers and has steadfastly denied accusations of its “expansionism,” it is currently at odds with up to 18 nations. The red dragon’s ravenous appetite may even surpass that of the 19th- and 20th-century empires, which were always at war and involved in territorial conflicts.
The conflict in the Galwan Valley was merely the tip of the iceberg. While the majority of China’s territorial disputes are with its neighbours, it is also well known for intimidating others—not only weaker nations—into submission. a strategy that has frequently infuriated the US with its “rogue” behaviour.
The Shanghai Five, which included Russia, China, and the three Central Asian governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, was the organisation that gave rise to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which was established in 2001. This five-member alliance, proposed by China, was formed in 1996 with the goal of gaining control of the oil and mineral-rich Central Asian region. The six-member SCO was later expanded to include Uzbekistan in 2001.
Why India was inducted in SCO?
China had initially indicated its opposition to Russia’s proposal to include India because the organisation was struggling to gain traction in international fora. China suggested including Pakistan as a counterbalance to India after sensing Russia’s strong desire to include India. India’s involvement provided the group some legitimacy as a democratic power. India, for its part, was ready and determined to join this group because it wished to use it to safeguard and advance its national interests and increase the visibility and assertiveness of its presence in Central Asia. In 2017, Indian diplomacy was successful in getting India admitted as an equal partner to the SCO’s eight members. The five Central Asian governments welcomed India’s decision to join the SCO’s High Table in order to improve relations with them. The early attempts to invite representatives of the Afghan Taliban to the summit as observers, was one example of an anti-India agenda that India was able to reject. India joined the SCO primarily to establish itself in the Central Asian nations. India would have lost the chance to defend its interests by excluding itself from the SCO.
The second round of SCO expansion was one of the core agendas of the Samarkand Summit. As the current members, observers and dialogue partners of the SCO are all non-Western countries, some of which are being sanctioned by the US and the West, such as Russia, Iran and Belarus, the SCO has attracted some suspicions from American and Western public opinion. They describe the SCO’s exploration of new multilateral cooperation mechanisms as wanting to “compete” with the West or “against the West.”
As the member states started military exchanges and joint exercises among themselves, this was initially referred to as a move to oppose the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.The SCO summit, held in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, was even described by some
Western media as creating an “anti-Western front.” These Western powers only understand and speculate about the SCO’s concepts with their own narrow cognition. The minds of American and Western elites are full of domineering and paranoid confrontational thinking. The target they wanted to suppress had better “socially die” in the global village and not have its own circle of friends. However, the controlling power of the US and the West cannot match their ambitions, and things that do not meet their wishes are constantly emerging, just like the SCO. In a certain sense, this is the inevitability of social evolution or the progress of the times.
The recent SCO Summit provides evidence that multilateral organisations’ traditional goals change as a result of shifting priorities and trends. The battle between Russia and Ukraine, which appears to have lost favour with news cycles, is still going on, and as a type of aftermath, nations are preparing for and moving toward a world without the accepted primacy of the US and the west.
What India gained from Samarkand?
Observers agree that India’s participation in the SCO Summit was quite positive. The Samarkand declaration, which addressed several of India’s concerns, especially those about terrorism and the denial of transit rights to member states, was seen as the summit’s most important result from India’s perspective. Indian diplomacy was successful in obtaining Varanasi (Kashi) in Uttar Pradesh named the first-ever SCO tourist and cultural capital for the years 2022–2033, which was a tangible result for India. The UP government, along with the Center, will host a number of events in Varanasi to commemorate this honour. In fact, the Samarkand proclamation praised numerous Indian initiatives and made mention of them. In addition, the SCO decided to form a special working group on the start-up and innovation system and approved another Indian move by forming a working group of experts on traditional medicine, an industry in which “India has global leadership skills.” Concerning terrorism, the SCO decided to work toward compiling a list of terrorist, separatist, and extremist organisations whose activities are forbidden on the soil of SCO member states. This is particularly important in light of the China-Pakistani effort to stop the UN from identifying terrorists acting against India while based in Pakistan.
The SCO Summit in 2023 will be hosted by India with it being assuming the SCO presidency, further highlighting India’s position and importance in the Central Asian and Eurasian region. Iran and Belarus would be present in New Delhi as full members the following year. Through its Chabahar Port, Iran has been a huge help to India in strengthening connectivity between Central Asia and India. India anticipates advancing the Samarkand Declaration’s call for extending transit privileges to all signatory nations and for taking effective counterterrorism measures.
The SCO can significantly contribute to regional security and help avert both local and global disasters. By encouraging member trust, this regional platform can encourage better cooperation and communication. The state of affairs internationally has considerably worsened. Relations between Washington, Beijing, and Moscow are deteriorating as the crises in the Taiwan Strait and Ukraine have gotten worse. These newly found global issues require a response from the SCO leaders.
The Covid-19 dilemma demonstrated the wide range of challenges the globe is facing, from the deadly Pandemic to climate change. The SCO can be an appropriate platform to address the urgent needs of humanity by standing above the geopolitical aspirations of individual countries because the difficulties facing humanity are transnational in nature and diffuse across national boundaries.
SCO has always evolved and adjusted to rapidly changing global circumstances. But despite ongoing threats to its territorial integrity and national sovereignty from China-CPEC Pakistan’s projects, China’s ongoing infrastructure construction in the contentious Aksai Chin region, and further Chinese incursions into Bhutan, India has demonstrated its commitment to taking a multilateral approach to issues of regional significance. In order to develop strategies and create goals for a resilient post-pandemic region, New Delhi can contribute its own strengths. The development of SCO is consistent with the change in the global order, and further changes should be anticipated in the future.
By Nilabh Krishna