Introduction: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a permanent international intergovernmental organization. It was established in June 2001 in Shanghai, China, by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People's Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Russian Federation, and the Republic of Tajikistan.
- The SCO currently has nine members: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Iran.
- During the23rd Summit, Iran officially joined the SCO as the Ninth Member Country.
- Limited institutional mechanisms
- Divergent interests and disagreement: The SCO comprises member states with different political systems, economic models, and strategic priorities, leading to internal conflicts and disagreements.
- Limited geographical scope: The SCO's focus on Eurasia and neighboring regions restricts its engagement with global issues and challenges.
- Western skepticism and criticism: Western countries criticize the SCO for its lack of democratic credentials, support for authoritarian regimes, and internal conflicts and border disputes among members.
Conflicts Among Member Countries
- India-China border issues, India-Pakistan tensions over terrorism, Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border issues, Instability in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area and Scrutiny of the SCO's peace-promoting abilities
Importance of the SCO for India
- Economic Cooperation: to strengthen economic ties with Central Asian countries, which possess abundant natural resources and diversification of economic partnerships
- Energy Security: With vast reserves of oil and gas, Central Asia offers an opportunity for India to enhance its energy security.
- Cultural Cooperation - Designation of cultural capital: The SCO member countries have agreed to designate one city each year as the tourism and cultural capital, with "Kashi" (Varanasi) being the first cultural capital under this initiative.
- Counterterrorism: The SCO places significant emphasis on cooperation in countering terrorism.
Highlights of the SCO Summit 2023
- Indian External Minister's viewpoint: Dr. Jaishankar highlighted the significance of multilateral cooperation within the SCO to address regional and global issues.
- Pakistan-India relations: The SCO meeting marked the first visit of a Pakistani Foreign Minister to an international forum held in India in 12 years. Although bilateral talks were not expected, speculations arose about a potential thaw in relations.
- Assessment of decisions: The SCO Foreign Ministers assessed the status of upcoming decisions to be approved at the SCO Summit in July, addressing regional and geopolitical issues.
- Food Security: India emphasizes the promotion of millets to address concerns related to food security, considering the ongoing global energy and food crisis. The SCO's support could contribute to designating 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
- Connectivity: India urges complete rights of passage among SCO member states to improve connectivity and establish dependable supply chains in the region.
- Tourism: Varanasi has been named the SCO Tourism and Cultural Capital for 2022–2023, promoting cultural and historical heritage and encouraging exchanges between India and SCO member nations.
- Working Group on Alternative Medicine: The World Health Organization (WHO) launched its Global Center for Alternative Medicines in Gujarat, India, establishing the first and only conventional medicine center worldwide.
- Cultural ties: India's cultural ties with SCO members, particularly the Central Asian Republics, are highlighted through these initiatives.
The SCO offers significant benefits to India, including economic cooperation, energy security, cultural exchanges, and counterterrorism efforts. However, the SCO's internal contradictions remain a cause for concern. While China's growing regional influence may impact Russia, the two countries have formed a closer partnership, maintaining strategic division in Central Asia. Together, they aim to deter Western powers from interfering in the region.