Reshaping Asian Politics | Dhaka Tribune
The SCO will play a crucial role in shaping policy in the Asian region
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is one of the important organizations straddling Central Asia and South Asia. Founded in 1996 as Shanghai Five, it became SCO in 2001 when Uzbekistan joined it. Since then, the organization has come a long way.
Although the fundamental principles of mutual trust, mutual respect, equality, respect for cultural diversity and shared development remain guiding principles, it is important in more ways than one, especially in the context of recent global developments which are likely to affect This region.
This year’s summit in Qingdao, China on June 9-10 was held against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, the recent US-China trade war and the imposition of sanctions on Russia. More importantly, for India, the post-Wuhan and post-Sochi dynamics of its bilateral relations with China and Russia respectively. India has a substantial interest in this region and is pursuing them bilaterally.
The four important issues defined by the organization as priority areas of cooperation – namely political, security (with an emphasis on terrorism), economic and cultural contacts – are areas in which India is already engaged bilaterally with Member States.
Interestingly, her reservations about the China-led One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative did not prevent her from being a member of the SCO. New Delhi’s interest in developing a communication network with Central Asia and Afghanistan through the Iranian port of Chahbahar – built by India, and the North-South International Transport Corridor (INSTC) that will link it to the Eurasian region – is part of its long-term strategy to overcome its lack of access to land in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Therefore, in the context of developing rail and road infrastructure for trade, some of these initiatives in which India is engaged, as well as other countries in the region, are likely to bring economic dividends to the region. in general. Membership in the SCO only promotes India’s initiative in this region.
An important area of ââcooperation is that of the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism within the framework of the regional counterterrorism structure (RATS) of the SCO. India has already participated in a RATS meeting held in Islamabad this year.
In the latter part of this year, member countries will hold a joint counterterrorism exercise in Russia that, for the first time, will bring together Indian and Pakistani military. Although personnel from the armed forces of the two countries have worked together in UN peacekeeping missions, this will be the first joint exercise.
The importance of RATS is that it has a terrorism database on international terrorist, separatist and other extremist organizations. For India, which has substantial investments in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, this database will help it map the threat. Moreover, having access to a database of transnational terrorist groups will help India to fight against them.
China and Russia remain important guiding forces within the SCO, despite the inherent competition between the two to become major players in the regional grouping.
China has become an important consideration for Central Asian countries with large infrastructure and energy projects, and has capitalized on their fear of Russian domination. With the convergence of interests between these two countries on several global issues – against a backdrop of Russian-American and Sino-American tension – the SCO has gained strength and unity of objectives and counterbalances the interests of the States – United for the Region.
Although China concedes Russia’s primacy in Central Asia, nonetheless, many Central Asian countries view Beijing as a balancer. In recent years, China and Russia have managed significant economic and military cooperation and have strategic convergence in their approach to Iran and Syria despite their geopolitical fear of each other.
India and Pakistan will attend the summit for the first time as full members of the SCO. The countries’ membership in the SCO will help the organization attract two more countries interested in the region and eager to connect and access the energy resources of Central Asia.
The two countries are part of the TAPI pipeline and several multilateral infrastructure projects. Both are also interested in the stability of Afghanistan, according to a SCO observer. The SCO has a contact group in Afghanistan. This will allow India to make a meaningful commitment to the effort to bring peace to Afghanistan as a member of the SCO.
India and China, wishing to invest in mines in Afghanistan, have agreed on a joint India-China economic project in Afghanistan and would initially focus on capacity building.
Interestingly, there is a lot of diplomatic juggling that India has to do. It is trying to revitalize its ties with Russia and China, it also has a substantial convergence of interests with the United States in the Indo-Pacific.
India’s decision to purchase the S-400 Triumf missile system – whose delivery has been pending for some time – despite US reservations, is a significant signal that Russia remains an important destination for defense purchases from India.
Likewise, he made it clear that he would go ahead with his proposed preferential trade deal with Iran and continue to import crude oil, despite US sanctions. As long as the European Union is not part of the US sanctions regime, India can continue to pay Iran in euros.
The SCO summit not only allowed India to articulate its vision for the region, but the meetings India has had with member states on the sidelines are equally important in shaping its bilateral relationship.
As it appears, the SCO will be an important organization that will play a crucial role in shaping policy in the Asian region.
Smruti S Pattanaik is Associate Researcher, IDSA.