Critically examine the aims and objectives of SCO. what importance does it hold for India. UPSC 2021, 15 Marks

Q19. एस०सी॰ओ० के लक्ष्यों और उद्देश्यों का विश्लेषणात्मक परीक्षण कीजिए। भारत के लिए इसका क्या महत्व है(उत्तर 250 शब्दों में दीजिए)
Q19. Critically examine the aims and objectives of SCO. what importance does it hold for India. (Answer in 250 words) 15

Answer:

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organization comprising Eurasian nations, with a secretariat in Beijing.

They account for 40% of the global population, nearly 20% of global GDP, and around 22% of global landmass.

It is a political, economic, and military organization whose mission is to keep the region at peace, secure, and stable.

SCO comprises of 4 central Asian Nations (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan), India, China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran.

SCO’s Importance for India

  • Geo-political and Geo-Strategic Angle: Central Asia is considered to be part of India’s Extended Neighborhood. In addition, the SCO allows India to pursue its “Connect Central Asian Policy.” It will also assist India in curbing China’s ever-increasing dominance in Eurasia.
  • Current Afghanistan issue and Terrorism: Taliban’s revival in Afghanistan is apparently against India’s strategic interests. This Taliban, Pakistan and China nexus is posing threat to India’s already fragile Kashmir. India can effectively utilize RATS (Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure), which is under the aegis of SCO to maintain peace in the region.
  • Connectivity: The SCO can aid in regional integration by promoting connectivity and cross-border stability. Furthermore, it enables India to engage in multilateral discussions with both friends like Russia and foes like China and Pakistan. 
  • Natural Resources: Central Asian region is abundant in natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas, antimony, aluminum, gold, silver, coal, and uranium, all of which can be used to meet India’s energy needs. SCO can play a pivotal role in this.
  • Central Asia has vast cultivable areas that are unused and unproductive, providing an enormous opportunity for pulse cultivation. Commercial agro-industrial complexes can be established in Central Asia by Indian agribusiness firms by using the SCO platform.

 

Challenges for India in SCO

  • Growing Cooperation between China and Russia: One of the main reasons Russia pushed for India’s SCO membership was to balance China’s power. However, today’s challenge for India is the growing closeness of Russia and China, despite India’s efforts to improve relations with the US. Furthermore, the new equation of growing triangular convergence of interests between Russia, China, and Pakistan is a challenge that must be navigated.
  • No Direct Land Connectivity: Pakistan’s strategic denial of direct land connectivity between India and Afghanistan and beyond remains a major impediment to India’s expanded engagement with Eurasia.
  •  As a result, India’s bilateral trade with Central Asia was approximately $2 billion in 2017 and approximately $10 billion with Russia. In contrast, China’s trade with Russia surpassed $100 billion in 2018, while bilateral trade with Central Asia exceeds $50 billion. In addition, the lack of connectivity has hampered the development of energy ties between the hydrocarbon-rich region and India.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative: While India has stated its opposition to the BRI, all other SCO members have embraced China’s initiative. 

The SCO’s evolving goal appears to be to raise not only its regional but also its global strategic and economic profile. In this scenario, India, as a member of the SCO, will need to develop a suitable Eurasian strategy. Efforts must be made by our foreign policy experts to dilute the challenges in SCO and leverage it for India’s geo political, go economical and geo strategic advantages. 

This strategy should serve India’s regional interests by ensuring long-term nation-building through development partnerships, preserving sovereignty, and preventing the region from becoming a hotspot for terrorism and extremism. At the same time, it is in India’s best interests for this region not to devolve into a geopolitical chessboard for new great game rivalries.

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