SCO Should Play a Proactive Role in Consolidating Interests of Member States in Eurasia

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on September 15 and 16, was the first in-person gathering since the Covid-19 pandemic. It took place amid several significant world events, including the conflict between China and India in the Galwan Valley and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This summit brought together 15 regional “strong powers”, including Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and India.

UNDERSTANDING SCO

Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan created the SCO in 2001. It is an organisation that primarily focuses on regional security and development challenges. While India joined the SCO as an observer in 2005, it became a full member in 2017 along with Pakistan.

ANALYSING THE DECLARATION

The Samarkand Declaration included several statements and documents from member governments on issues such as preserving international energy security, combating climate change, and preserving a safe, stable, and diverse supply chain. The resolution to create task forces for innovation, entrepreneurship, poverty alleviation, and traditional medicine was also approved by SCO nations. Through political and diplomatic methods, the member nations will continue to support SCO’s efforts to uphold peace and security and foster closer ties to address global and regional conflicts. The SCO nations vowed to eradicate factors encouraging terrorism, separatism, and extremism, and condemned terrorist attacks across the world.

RUSSIA-CHINA NEXUS

During the extraordinary summit in Samarkand, several bilateral meetings took place but the most important one was between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping who met for the first time since the Russian-Ukraine war. Both nations are looking for support in the face of sanctions from the West. Russia and China want to portray SCO as an epitome of an anti-western bloc and partially to counter the US influence in the Eurasian region. Xi did not directly mention the West but underlined how China and Russia see the SCO as a pivotal vehicle to push back against Western countries.

Russia wants solid support from China on the Ukrainian issue. China refrains from saying that the war on Ukraine is justified and legitimate but does admit that the NATO incited the war. In return, China wants more support from Russia on the Taiwan issue and its geopolitical ambitions. In recent times, Vladimir Putin has described the relationship between the Kremlin and Beijing as a “no-limit partnership.” This shows the meeting of minds of both countries on matters of geopolitics.

INDIA MAKES ITS STAND CLEAR

In a bilateral summit between India and Russia, the Russian President acknowledged Indian worries about the conflict in Ukraine and reassured them of ending it as quickly as feasible. Due to the pandemic and the subsequent Ukrainian war, international communities are experiencing high inflation and economic unrest, and India is not exempt from these global challenges. India expressed its concern over the situation in Ukraine and drew attention to the issues with the world’s food, fuel, and fertiliser supplies that are particularly problematic for developing nations.

Given its unique relations (strategic relation) with Moscow, India is keeping a delicate balance on the Ukrainian crisis. West has only one prescription for every ailment, which is sanctions, but it rarely gets effective. In contrast to the West, India did not threaten or impose sanctions but instead repeatedly emphasised respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarified that “this is not a time for war” and that democracy, diplomacy and negotiation can resolve international disputes. This remark by Modi unequivocally demonstrates another approach.

IRAN: A REVAMPED SCO

Iran has signed a Memorandum of Obligation and is prepared to join the SCO permanently, and India is the first nation to support it. China enjoys cordial relations with both Russia and Pakistan, however, Iran’s inclusion will assist India in balancing organisational power dynamics in the SCO because of its positive relations with Russia and Iran.

In the Arthshashtra, Kautilya stated, “The enemy’s enemy is a friend”. This theory is time-tested and frequently applied. Western nations (especially the US) have imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran and Russia. The west is also against the expansionist behaviour of China in the Indo-Pacific and Taiwan. These three countries (China, Russia and Iran) have a common adversary and similar objectives. Hence, using the SCO as a common platform to counter western sanctions will be a win-win situation for them; as Iran mentioned, “New problems required to thwart ‘Draconian’ US sanctions.

As Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian tweeted, “Now we have entered a new stage of various economic, commercial, transit, energy and cooperation”. This membership will help the crippled Iranian economy by providing alternate economic and commercial engagement against western sanctions.

GEOPOLITICS AND MEETING

Days before the summit, China and India declared that they would withdraw their forces from PP-15 (Patrolling point 15) at Gogra-Hot spring, one of the three unresolved flashpoints that needed to be settled. India saw this as a vital step towards resolving the standoff that had been going on since May 2020. At the SCO meeting, India’s presence was crucial for Russia and China to exert pressure on the West by forging a coalition.

While addressing the summit, PM Modi emphasised how the country supports the mutual trust among SCO leaders.

India raised the issue of transit rights between member states; India stated that it took many months for India to get transit rights to send supplies to Afghanistan via Pakistan. Further discussing the need for improved connectivity for development, India urged the SCO members to promote conventional medicine. The pandemic and the Ukrainian conflict caused disruptions in the world’s supply systems. As a result, food and energy supplies worldwide were depleted. To build a dependable, resilient, and diversified global supply chain in Eurasia, better connectivity is necessary. This could only be possible if we provide transit rights to each other in the region.

In order to encourage trade, investment and other exchanges between India and Central Asia, connectivity becomes essential. The Samarkand summit was crucial to assert India’s position on trade and connectivity between member states.

MAINTAIN THE SCO CHARTER

SCO can play a crucial role in regional security and mitigate regional and global crises. This regional platform can promote improved cooperation and communication by fostering mutual trust amongst members. Around the world, the international situation has drastically deteriorated. The Taiwan Strait and Ukraine crisis have worsened, and relations between Washington, Beijing, and Moscow are deteriorating. The SCO leaders must respond to these newly apparent global problems.

The world faces a myriad of crises, from climate change to the deadly Pandemic, as seen during the Covid-19 crisis. The challenges facing humanity are transnational in nature, diffusing across national boundaries so the SCO can be an ideal platform to address the pressing needs of humanity by standing above the geopolitical ambitions of individual countries.

The anti-western coalition that China and Russia want to create through the SCO could hurt the long-term regional interests of Eurasian nations. The members of the SCO should collaborate with other countries and major powers on the international stage (at IOs) because multilateral cooperation is crucial for overall growth.

The SCO should play a proactive role in consolidating the interests of member states in the Eurasian landmass.

Anmol Kumar is pursuing Masters in Politics and International Relations from Pondicherry University. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication

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