Prime Minister Narendra Modi will land in Samarkand, Uzbekistan today to attend the 22nd Heads of State Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The PM is also likely to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.


What is Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

SCO is a permanent international intergovernmental Organization headquartered at Beijing, China and was formed in 2001 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and  Tajikistan. India and Pakistan became  permanent members in 2017 in the SCO Astana Summit. As of now, it includes 9 Permanent members, 3 observer states as members and 6 dialogue partner states.

Aims and Objectives of SCO

SCO was formed with the objective of promoting political, economic and security cooperation among its member nations. It aims to safeguard regional peace, security, and stability and create a democratic and equitable international, political and economic order. It has a multi dimensional approach to ensure cooperation and synergy in the field of political affairs, trade, education, culture, energy, transport, tourism and environment protection. 

Organizational Structure:

The major bodies of SCO are given below:

  • The Heads of State Council (HSC): It is the supreme decision making body of SCO which meets once a year. It decides the major areas of functioning of SCO and also determines its internal functioning as well as its dealings with other states and international organizations.
  • The Heads of Government Council: is the second-highest organ of SCO, with a dual mandate to decide on budgetary matters and devise details of economic cooperation.
  • The Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs: Considers issues related to day-to-day activities and holding of consultations on international problems within the Organization. 
  • Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS): Established to fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism.

Importance of the SCO meet 

  •  Rebuilding economy: It is the first in-person meeting of Heads of SCO after        the  onset of  the Covid-19 pandemic. Countries will have to find a way to              come out of the economic recession hitting the world.
  • Combating terrorism: With the coming of Taliban into power in Afghanistan coupled with the rise of extreme fundamentalist groups and terrorism sparked by ISIS and other groups, states will have to come together to combat security threats. 
  • Resolving Ukraine- Russia conflicts: The Ukraine-Russia military escalations pose a threat to global stability. The SCO meet needs to address this.
  • De-escalation of Taiwan-China tensions : The relations have strained all the more ever since US speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan which was eyed with suspicion by China. There is growing fear of a Chinese invasion as military tensions increased in the Taiwan Strait and USA is considering imposing sanctions against China. 
  • Finding solutions to Iran Nuclear Deal: The negotiations between USA and Iran have continuously reached no conclusion with the USA now imposing new sanctions against Iran.  

Significance of SCO for India

  • Support for permanent membership of the UN Security Council: India can channelize SCO to gain support for permanent seat in UNSC. Uzbekistan already sports India’s candidature for it.
  • Connectivity to Central Asia and harnessing relations with Iran: India showed support to admit Iran as a full member in SCO . Further, during the foreign ministerial meeting of SCO last year, India highlighted the important role of Chabahar Port in increasing the connectivity in the region.
  • Trade and Investment: India has the opportunity for development of  startups, exchange of science and technology and traditional medicine with SCO member states. India is already a major source of medicines and pharmaceuticals in Tajikistan.
  • Natural Resources: The Central Asian region is rich in natural resources like crude oil, natural gas, gold, iron, aluminum, and copper.
  • Security and stability: The issues arising from Taliban takeover and conflicts in West Asia can cause spillover effects in India. SCO is a strong platform to resolve such challenges.
  • Combating terrorism, narcotics trade and weapons trafficking: India has earlier called for “zero tolerance for terrorism in all its manifestations”. The RATS of SCO offers a mechanism to deal with terrorism and address issues of state sponsored terrorism also.
  • Tourism diplomacy: SCO Heads of State have already expressed their admiration for India’s joint digital exhibition on Shared Buddhist Heritage earlier. There can be further expansion of tourism in terms of Buddhist connections.

Way Forward

With more than 22% of global GDP and 45% of global population, SCO has immense potential to decide the future world order and balance of power. It can play a significant role in Asia and counter the influence of western countries in the region. Hence, it is imperative for India to utilize SCO in line with India’s policy of “multi-alignments”. With India hosting the next SCO summit by assuming the rotational presidency, it can demonstrate its ability of being a responsible great power.

Sources (The Hindu)(PM Modi may hold bilateral talks with Putin, Raisi) (Indian Express)(Modi leaves for SCO today, Russia confirms his meeting with Putin) (The Daily Guardian)(India’s perspective on SCO meet and challenges ahead)

Plutus IAS current affairs eng med 15th Sep 2022

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