What SCO summit means for India’s global and regional interests
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What SCO summit means for India’s global and regional interests

By Indian Express calender  13-Jun-2019

What SCO summit means for India’s global and regional interests

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Formerly the Shanghai Five and formed in 1996, the SCO has eight members today including India and Pakistan, which became part of it in 2017. 

What kind of a grouping is the SCO?
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the then security and economic architecture in the Eurasian region dissolved and new structures had to come up. The original Shanghai Five were China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. The SCO was formed in 2001, with Uzbekistan included. It expanded in 2017 to include India and Pakistan.
Since its formation, the SCO has focused on regional non-traditional security, with counter-terrorism as a priority: The fight against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism has become its mantra. Today, areas of cooperation include themes such as economics and culture.
Under what circumstances did India enter the SCO?
While Central Asian countries and China were not in favor of expansion initially, the main supporter — of India’s entry in particular — was Russia. A widely held view is that Russia’s growing unease about an increasingly powerful China prompted it to push for its expansion. From 2009 onwards, Russia officially supported India’s ambition to join the SCO. China then asked for its all-weather friend Pakistan’s entry.

How does it play out in the India-Pakistan or India-China relationship?
In the absence of the SAARC summit, the SCO summit gives an opportunity for Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet informally, on the sidelines. Both sides have the obligation not to bring in bilateral disputes but can cooperate on issues of mutual interest and importance. Signing off on joint counter-terrorism exercises will be a new form of engagement between the two militaries. With China, it is yet another opening, like the BRICS summit last year, to bring down tensions, and ahead of the next informal summit in October in India.

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