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Regional priorities: On the SCO summit

  • IASbaba
  • December 2, 2020
  • 0
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INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate. 
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Regional priorities: On the SCO summit

Context: Three years after joining the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), India hosted the SCO heads of governments (HoG) meeting for the first time.

For a brief background on SCO, Click here

Although the HoG Council consists of the Prime Ministers of all SCO countries, neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan attended the meet, ostensibly due to a protocol mismatch between the position of PMs in parliamentary democracies versus those in the former Soviet bloc and China

Key Takeaways from the 2020 Meeting (Virtual) 

  • Response to COVID-19: Need for developing a “Plan of Priority Practical Measures for 2021-2022 to overcome the socio-economic, financial and food consequences of COVID-19 in the region”.
  • Multilateralism: Members committed to strengthening multilateralism and the UN charter while welcoming the fact that the grouping is now being seen as an “influential and responsible participant in the modern system of international relations”.
  • India-Pakistan Differences: PM Modi was represented by Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, who made strong observations on cross-border terrorism; he called it the SCO region’s “biggest challenge”, in comments aimed at Pakistan. Pakistan’s representative too spoke of the need to combat what she called “state terrorism” in disputed areas, in a reference to Jammu and Kashmir. Neither statement on terrorism was reflected in the final joint statement, which focused on trade and economic issues.
  • India- China Differences: India also marked its differences with China over the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by not joining other SCO members in a paragraph endorsing the BRI

What is the importance of SCO going forward?

  • Regardless of the differences, Indian government has consistently maintained the importance of the SCO grouping, referred to as the “Asian NATO” although it does not mandate security alliances
  • Regional Engagement: The SCO is one of the few regional structures India is a part of now, given a decline in its engagement with SAARC, BBIN and the RCEP.
  • Connect with Central Asia: The SCO provides India a convenient channel for its outreach — trade and strategic ties — to Central Asian countries. 
  • Platform to solve tense bilateral issues: SCO has afforded a platform, when needed, for bilateral discussions with the two countries India has the most tense ties with: China and Pakistan. While the government has eschewed meetings with Pakistan for the last five years, it has used the SCO for talks with China, including this year amidst the LAC stand-off.
  • Geopolitical Balance: SCO has been seen as a grouping worth pursuing as it retains India’s geopolitical balance, a useful counterpoint to India’s otherwise much more robust relations with the western world.

Conclusion

The SCO serves India’s quest for geopolitical balance and regional engagement

Connecting the dots:

  • Future of SAARC and BIMSTEC
  • India’s Non-Alignment Policy in the times of increasing Polarisation in world

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