SCO’s Importance To India Despite Its Members Being Often At War

SCO’s Importance To India Despite Its Members Being Often At War

Samarkand’s glory once again adorned the tarmac as the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) landed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are said to be considering meeting on the sidelines of the conference.


Even though it didn’t happen, plenty else did. The SCO has gained a member, has another in the works, and has five more as dialogue partners. It isn’t an alliance, and its documents usually lack anything substantial, but India needs to be there for several reasons.

SCO As A Growing Child

Three-quarters of the world’s population and some 30 percent of its Gross Domestic Product are represented by the SCO and new member Iran (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan). In 2017, India and Pakistan joined, earning seats at the high table.

While Afghanistan has observer status, Nepal and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners. Mongolia has progressed to full membership, but Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, and Turkey have not. The potential dialogue partners are Myanmar, Maldives, Bahrain, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates.

sco's importance to india despite its members being often at war

The list shows that SCO members tend to fight with each other. Due to tensions between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and another outbreak of war in Armenia. Despite the Gogra showcasing of disengagement, it appears that the India-China border dispute is close to being resolved once and for all.

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As a result, despite all the talk about military exercises, the SCO is not a security organization that requires trust and alignment. This is why India sends only a token contingent and tolerates Pakistan. In the face of Washington’s suspicious gaze and a menacing China, that’s all we can manage.

Connectivity To Where?

A massive region like the SCO possesses enormous potential for trade and connectivity. Do not forget Samarkand was once the hub of thriving caravan trade. Trucks and pipelines would be today’s caravans.

In addition to significant gas and oil suppliers (Russia, Kazakhstan), SCO members are also the largest consumers (China, India). Also included in the list are the largest wheat producers, including India.

Logically, the Samarkand Declaration focuses on connectivity and energy and food security, which are priorities for India. The benefits of ‘connectivity’ have benefited China only so far. Beijing hosts the organization’s secretariat, which the Chinese have dominated.

sco's importance to india despite its members being often at war

As part of the Belt and Road Initiative, all SCO members have signed on; nearly all have substantial Chinese investments and unsustainable debt; several, like Kazakhstan and Russia, are significant partners in connecting Europe — which means Chinese freight trains are used every day.

Hence, all countries must cooperate to allow transit, as the Prime Minister said. Both have recently highlighted the importance of transit trade through Chabahar, which has been delayed partly by sanctions on Iran and by Teheran’s lax attitude.

Alternatively, there is always the obvious choice. Throughout the last two years, Pakistan’s army chief has emphasized the country’s geographic location for precise transit as a shift to ‘geo-economics.’

Hopefully, some progress will occur as Pakistan literally sinks into the mire of economic decay, mainly after the government allowed commercial cargo to Uzbekistan and wheat transit to Afghanistan.

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It happened after Pakistan and Tashkent signed a transit trade agreement. Therefore, the first step is already complete. Mumbai and Karachi are the two gateways through which this came. We must persuade Pakistan to open land corridors to provide the shortest route.

Since leading recipients of Chinese investment like Kazakhstan are rethinking their investment, India is an obvious alternative to complete Chinese dominance of Central Asia and Pakistan.

The Political Balancing In SCO

Additionally, the SCO is divided politically, along with its militaries. Despite the general camaraderie, Beijing would be alarmed by President Xi Jinping’s state honours in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. China’s march across the region has left Moscow rather helpless.

sco's importance to india despite its members being often at war

Despite this, Russia maintains a tactical lead through the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation). A kind of outsourcing is China collecting big money while it handles this tricky operation.

However, things aren’t looking good. In addition to the substantial economic impact, President Xi’s concern for Ukraine has an even more direct effect. War has stalled 3680 Chinese freight trains running across Russia to Europe. Due to drought and Covid lockdowns, Beijing wants to end this war quickly.

Indians seem to be sending the same message. Russia’s support is essential if India is to gain leverage within the SCO, including in its Afghan policy. As Delhi moves away from Russian weapons, it must add ballast.

Reports from the US observe an expansion in China’s nuclear weapons capability that indicates its departure from ‘minimal deterrence. I’m concerned about that, even if there was no border conflict.

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All of this will likely make Beijing uneasy. At that point, it could either increase its cooperation with India in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – for example, by making Pakistan open up its transit trade – or expand its military power.

To build confidence, a complete border settlement is essential. The logic seems to escape Beijing, however. India will likely be confronted with urgent climate problems as the SCO’s chair as it takes over the SCO presidency.

Several of these issues, such as energy security and food security, require cooperation on the ground, not just nice-sounding declarations, for the organization to succeed.sco's importance to india despite its members being often at war

More locally, the founding documents of the SCO – which both India and Pakistan signed – also emphasize terrorism’s end. Though China did not stop categorizing Pakistani nationals as terrorists, they fear radicalization.

Even though the RATS isn’t exactly James Bond material, it has been helpful in that it has now proposed to establish a unified list of terror and extremist organizations whose activities are prohibited on the SCO member countries’ territories.

There’s something to that as well. The year ahead will bring Delhi many opportunities, some of which could enable better relations between Beijing and New Delhi. Beijing has to decide what the SCO should be for that to happen.

Warring and dissonant voices, or an agent that yields prosperity. No matter how vast and unwieldy an organization is, the choice seems obvious even when viewed in terms of ordinary human conduct.

Edited by Prakriti Arora

Nandana Valsan

Nandana Valsan is a Journalist/Writer by profession and an 'India Book of Records holder from Kochi, Kerala. She is pursuing MBA and specializes in Journalism and Mass Communication. She’s best known for News Writings for both small and large Web News Media, Online Publications, Freelance writing, and so on. ‘True Love: A Fantasy Bond’ is her first published write-up as a co-author and 'Paradesi Synagogue: History, Tradition & Antiquity' is her second successful write-up in a book as a co-author in the National Record Anthology. She has won Millenia 15 Most Deserving Youth Award 2022 in the category of Writer. A lot of milestones are waiting for her to achieve. Being a Writer, her passion for helping readers in all aspects of today's digital era flows through in the expert industry coverage she provides.

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