India gained the full membership Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SC...
Jun 15, 2018
India gained the full membership Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)
Recently India gained the full membership Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). In this context, analyse the significant advantages that may accrue to India and challenges that India may have to overcome because of the inclusion in SCO.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic, and security organisation. The organization was created in 2001 in Shanghai, China. It was created by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five group, founded on 26 April 1996 in Shanghai. India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan.
India and SCO
India’s disconnect with Central Asia came with partition and the loss of direct geographical links. Although Central Asia is highly endowed with natural resources, the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s denial of transit prevent India from directly accessing these resources and deepening economic ties with the countries of the region. This is an important factor that led India to seek membership in SCO.
Advantages of India’s membership
- India is an energy deficient country with increasing demands for energy, it is an assured market for the resource rich Central Asian countries and Russia. SCO membership could help advance talks on the construction of stalled pipelines like TAPI which is of considerable importance to India’s natural gas needs.
- Another development related to India’s energy requirements is the proposed Russian idea of an ‘Energy Club’ for deepening interactions between producers (Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Iran) and consumers (China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Pakistan and Mongolia). This arrangement will help in shaping a common energy system in both the regional and global contexts. Within this framework India and Russia are exploring a possible hydrocarbon pipeline route through North-West of China.
- Central Asian countries is a market for India’s IT, telecommunications, banking, finance and pharmaceutical industries. Thus, membership in SCO will help deepen economic ties between India and the Central Asian countries and eventually even result in a Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union.
- Foreign policy goals: Membership in SCO is likely to help India fulfil its aspiration of playing an active role in its extended neighbourhood as well as checking the ever growing influence of China in Eurasia. SCO also provides a platform for India to simultaneously engage with its traditional friend Russia as well as its rivals, China and Pakistan. Moreover, SCO membership would also enable India to hinder any attempt of Pakistan to use the SCO forum for mobilising support for its anti-India activities. Further, it will help India engage the Central Asian Republics (CARs) on a regular basis every year, something which has proved rather difficult in a bilateral format.
- India’s presence in SCO would also ensure that China does not dictate terms in Eurasia. This is also the concern of Russia which is in a state of a ‘soft competition’ with China in Central Asia. Moreover, India would be able to offset China’s Belt and Road Initiative by mobilising support for the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
- Afghanistan angle: Eurasian powers are bound to play a major role in Afghanistan’s security affairs. Russia, China and Pakistan have already started engaging the Taliban which is of concern to India. It is important that India does not get left out of the evolving situation in that country and SCO membership could help in this regard.
- India would also benefit from the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent, which would help gain vital intelligence inputs on the movement of terror outfits, drug-trafficking, cyber security and Public information of the region.
- Also, the annual joint military exercise among members would help India gain valuable new military operational insights.
- China and Russia are co-founders of SCO and its dominant powers, therefore, India’s ability to assert itself would be limited and it may have to content itself to playing the second fiddle. Moreover, India may also have to either dilute its growing partnership with the West or engage in a delicate balancing act.
- Except India, all the other members of SCO have endorsed China’s Belt and Road Initiative. India’s primary concern is related to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), a region over which India claims sovereignty but which has been under Pakistan’s occupation since 1947. In this regard, if in future the economic policies of SCO come to be associated with the BRI network of roads and transportation, then India would face a dilemma and even a policy setback.
- India and Pakistan: India-Pakistan rivalry can be a significant threat to the proper functioning of SCO too. Though, SCO charter prohibits the raising of bilateral issues, a conflict situation involving Kashmir might compel Russia and China to interfere to prevent any detrimental impact on the SCO.