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Regional priorities: On the SCO summit

The Editorial covers GS paper 2 [Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests.]

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - INSIGHTSIAS

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.

What is SCO?

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), or Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter, formally establishing the organisation, was signed in June 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003.

  • The original five nations, with the exclusion of Uzbekistan, were previously members of the Shanghai Five group, founded on 26 April 1996.

  • Since then, the organisation has expanded its membership to eight countries when India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.

  • The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO, it meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation.

  • Military exercises are also regularly conducted among members to promote cooperation and coordination against terrorism and other external threats, and to maintain regional peace and stability.

  • The SCO is the largest regional organisation in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population.

What was the point of discussion?

  • The focus of the 66-point joint communiqué at the end of the virtual conference was in 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”.

  • 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”.

  • 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.

  • The SCO is a rare forum where India-Pakistan troops take part in joint exercises under the Regional Anti-Terror Structure, although it would seem the two countries have come no closer on the issue.

  • Neither statement on terrorism was reflected in the final joint statement, which focused on trade and economic issues.

  • India also marked its differences with China over the BRI by not joining other SCO members in a paragraph endorsing the BRI.

  • Mr. Naidu made a pitch for “transparent and trustworthy” trade practices, seen as a sidebar aimed at China.

Conclusion

  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is seen as an eastern counter-balance to NATO. 

  • With India being its member, it will allow the country to push effective action in combating terrorism and on issues related to security.

  • With the presence of India and China, the world's most populous countries, SCO is now the organisation that has the largest population coverage.

  • India's entry into the group is expected to increase the group's heft in regional geopolitics and trade negotiations while giving it a pan-Asian hue at the same.

Source: The Hindu.