The Importance Of Narendra Modi’s Presence At The SCO Summit
In September 2022, Narendra Modi will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. As part of the SCO presidency, India will host its first Summit in 2023.
Over the years, China has increasingly expanded its economic footprint in Central Asia (CA), thereby acquiring political clout, much to Russia’s chagrin. Despite its benefits, it also burdened member-states with debt, causing discomfort.
India, which has historical ties and an interest in the former Soviet republics, immediately established diplomatic representation in all the newly independent states. Narasimha Rao visited the region in 1993 and 1995 with high-profile delegations.
Narasimha Rao visited Kazakhstan in 1993 as part of this author’s involvement. Even so, our momentum couldn’t last. As a challenge to the existing world order, China goes beyond that.
Economist noted in September 2014 that ‘it is slowly, messily, and without clear plans for the future, it is building a new one. Aside from India, SCO members have close ties with China and oppose Western liberal democratic values. American observers were promptly denied observer status in SCO.
The shrinking influence of Russia will make it even harder to check Chinese ambitions and SCO dominance. In light of China’s increasingly belligerent behavior and the formation of an embryonic ‘Red Quad’ comprising China, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran, isn’t Iran even the odd one out?
During the Summit, there will be a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is a given that Modi and Putin will have a tete-a-tete going by past practice. Pakistani PM and Indian PM are unlikely to meet. Where does Xi stand?
After visiting India for the 2nd informal Summit in Mahabalipuram five weeks earlier, Modi and Xi last met on November 13, November 13the BRICS summit in Brazil. Since May 2020, the two haven’t spoken face to face due to the Covid pandemic and Chinese misadventures in eastern Ladakh.
Intensive talks at the corps commanders’ level have produced limited results—the last round on July 17 in an agreement on PP15. What was China’s reason for delaying the agreement for three weeks more? We can draw a clear conclusion from this. We have seen our Chinese friends take a tactical step to see if things will work out.
There seems to be a pattern here. An armed standoff occurred at Doklam in 2017, Chumar in 2014, and Depsang in 2013 under President Xi, respectively, leading up to or during visits by PM Manmohan Singh to China, President Xi to India, and PM Modi to China.
The incidents were sorted out relatively quickly, unlike the current crisis. PLA troops are still gathered along the LAC and can be rapidly mobilized.
In four sectors, disengagement has occurred, but de-escalation has not happened. Despite building permanent infrastructure rapidly, China has no plans to withdraw.
Although not specific to India, it allows China to play hardball if it chooses. As evident from both informal summits, personal engagement with ‘Emperor Xi,’ who has assumed the mantle of a leader determined to overturn a century of humiliation, is unlikely to be effective.
As a result, he is more likely to play to the galleries in the weeks leading up to the 20th CPC Congress. China has faced increasing internal and external challenges in the last two years.
A flight of capital and talent is evident in the economy’s slowdown, the mounting national debts, the crash of the property market, and the persecution of business tycoons. As the Covid pandemic spreads across entire cities, inhumane lockdowns have sent shudders down collective spines worldwide.
As we look outward, the much-touted BRI, which has already received investments of at least $200 billion, appears to be backfiring. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Maldives are all experiencing financial difficulties in South Asia. It’s never been more anti-China than now.
Leaders of the Quad are meeting regularly and deepening their roots. We have concluded AUKUS. Japan’s defense spending is on the rise. A flare-up of tensions has been reported in the Taiwan Straits. It is becoming increasingly difficult for Chinese SOEs like Huawei to operate internationally.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for the US to maintain its hi-tech denial regime against China. The Chinese are paying for Xi Jinping’s cardinal mistake of oppressing everyone. This way, PM Modi‘s optics will be good, but perhaps not his first meeting with Xi.
It is only possible to restore the pre-May 2020 status quo ante at the LAC at this stage. An actual agreement, or one sought by the Chinese, should be honed out through a businesslike meeting.
Now let’s turn our attention to the SCO, which is more relevant than ever for India. Additionally, there’s more. India and China are members of tight groupings such as BRICS, RIC, and the G20. The relations between our countries have deteriorated once again, but they cannot remain that way forever.
To achieve this, we require continuous and sustained engagement at various levels. Instead of conflict, we’d be better off finding solutions at the negotiation table. Nonetheless, meaningful discussions can occur only at the right time and place, without coercion, and only when suitable.
Forums such as SCO provide a solution to this problem. The SCO could benefit significantly from India’s extensive credentials in counter-terrorism, human resource development, education, IT, telemedicine, and capacity building.
The best way to safeguard and promote our national interests is from within. By bringing value to an organization rather than becoming its foe, our presence automatically tempers potential mischief by our adversaries. Overall, China shows off its wallet to SCO, while Russia shows off its guns.
edited and proofread by nikita sharma