Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and India


  • G.S. Paper 2
  • Objective questions- SCO, aims, goals and composition, membership
  • Subjective questions- India’s benefit from SCO, How regional aspirations of Central Asian countries contradict with India’s goals?

About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is an Eurasian political, economic and security organisation.
  • SCO grew out of Shanghai Five founded in 1996 with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as its original members.
  • After the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991, China has a large number of undecided and disputed borders with many of the countries that became independent then. This saw the formation of Shanghai Five by these nations.
  • Uzbekistan joined the Shanghai Five group in June 2011 and the group was henceforth named, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
  • Its charter was signed in June 2002.
  • India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members in June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
  • SCO is the largest regional organisation in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population and has become very powerful and influential.

SCO Membership (2018)

  • 8 member states: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
  • 4 observer states: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia
  • 6 dialogue partners: Armenia, Azerbaizan, Cambodia, Nepal, SriLanka and Turkey

SCO’s Main Goals

  • Moving towards establishment of democratic, fair and rational international political and economic order.
  • Promoting cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research, technology and culture.
  • Promoting mutual trust and neighbourliness.
  • Maintaining and ensuring peace, security and stability in the region.
  • Enhancing ties in areas like education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection and healthcare.

How does membership of the SCO help India?

  • Counter-terrorism
    • These sit well with the SCO’s main objective of working cooperatively against the “three evils”.
    • India wants access to intelligence and information from SCO’s counter-terrorism body, the Tashkent-based Regional Anti Terror Structure (RATS).
    • A stable Afghanistan too is in India’s interest, and RATS provides access to non-Pakistan-centred counter-terrorism information there.
  • Connectivity
    • Connectivity is important for India’s Connect Central Asia policy. Energy cooperation dominates its interest – and it’s in China’s neighbourhood.
    • But India will also have to deal with an assertive China, which will push its Belt and Road Initiative during the summit.
    • SCO membership also bolsters India’s status as a major pan-Asian player, which is boxed in the South Asian paradigm.
  • Geopolitics and play out for India
    • The US’ power struggle with China, exit from the Iran nuclear deal JCPOA which affected India’s oil imports from Iran and adversarial attitude towards Russia which delayed India’s defence purchase like S-400.
    • While US’s stance against Islamabad after the Pulwama attack was evidence of its support to New Delhi, India has had a strained relationship with China after the Doklam stand-off, followed by attempts to reset relations in Wuhan.

India at SCO 2019

  • In 2019, PM came up with another innovative acronym called HEALTH which brings together the Indian experience in development, and India’s experience in engagement with other countries.
  • Indian PM also specifically spoke about radicalization as well. In the acronym that the PM gave, called, “HEALTH”, the alphabet “T” stands for countries that stand against terrorism.
  • It is important to note that radicalization is an issue that bedevils the Central Asian Region in a very big way. India also called for an international conference on terrorism, the SCO can take a lead in that.
  • Also in his ‘HEALTH’ acronym, the alphabet ‘A’ refers to alternative energy. It is here that he speaks about India’s experience in terms of focusing on renewable energy. Prime Minister also touched upon regional cooperation and spoke about how India is willing to share its expertise in all these areas.
  • Focus on Afghanistan, even though Afghanistan is not a member of the SCO, but India has a contact group on Afghanistan, and the Prime Minister underlined what India’s fundamental position on Afghanistan is.
  • Finally, it is important to note that the SCO provides an opportunity for the Indian leadership to connect with the leadership of the Central Asian countries.

How regional aspirations of Central Asian countries contradict with India’s goals?

  • Russia and Central Asian countries are likely to express “broad support” for China in the wake of trade war against U.S.
  • India is equally concerned about this trade war, but is in a dilemma in view of openly slamming U.S. protectionism.
  • It is also notable that all SCO members, barring India, are enthusiastic supporters of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Also, the other agenda of the summit would be to sell the Gwadar Port and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a potential passage to landlocked Central Asian states. But CPEC passes through territory over which India claims its sovereignty.
  • Terrorism is likely to be approached from the angle of improving the situation in Afghanistan and not necessarily of curbing the terrorist elements emanating from Pakistan.
  • Also through BRI and SCO, China will be successful in uniting Eurasia to challenge a united Europe. This scenario will prompt China and Russia to enter into a new era of global strategic partnership. This might not be in India’s strategic interest.