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Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Meet

  • Category
    World Affairs
  • Published
    25th May, 2019
  • India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj attended the meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to be held at Bishkek (Kyrgyz Republic) on 21-22 May, 2019.
  • The conference was also attended by her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Context

  • India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj attended the meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to be held at Bishkek (Kyrgyz Republic) on 21-22 May, 2019.
  • The conference was also attended by her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

About

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  • It was founded in June 2001 by China, Russia, and the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • It aimed to cooperate against non-traditional security challenges, in particular fighting the so-called “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism. Unsurprisingly, the decision to accept both India and Pakistan as full member states in 2017 was received with scepticism by experts both inside and outside the region.
  • The fact that the SCO also strives to strengthen mutual trust and good neighbourly relations between its member states.

Why were India and Pakistan accepted as full members?

  • A major reason for China, arguably the grouping’s most dominant actor, was its desire to flaunt its power, demonstrating the ability to lead an international organization.
  • The SCO, as the first multilateral organization ever created by China, is another case in point. Including its regional rival India and its “all-weather friend” Pakistan, the SCO helped China turn the organization from a grouping, largely disregarded beyond the region, into the largest regional organization both in terms of its geographical coverage and population with its collective gross domestic product amounting to almost 25 % of the global total.
  • It goes without saying that the expansion has given a boost to the SCO’s international profile. However, it has also become more important for China to score success with the organization.

Significance of 2019 meet

  • The meeting acquires significance as it comes in the backdrop of an expanding U.S. and China trade war and the energy shock to several of the member countries after the U.S. administration ended waiver for energy trade with Iran.
  • The most recent India-Pakistan conflict was triggered by a suicide attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy in the Pulwama district in February 2019, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group.
  • The escalation of tensions between the two nuclear powers is the first high-level military conflict between current SCO members and poses a serious challenge to the 18-year-old organization.
  • After continued exchanges of fire, both Russia and China offered their assistance in defusing tensions and proposed using the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) as a suitable platform. How this would be done, however, remains unclear.

Drawbacks of SCO

  • So far, the SCO has gotten away with publishing ambiguous statements concerning its primary motivation. A good example of the noncommittal wording is the 2010 revolution in Kyrgyzstan, which saw violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan.
  • Despite appeals by the Kyrgyz government for Chinese and Russian help, the organization issued vague statements calling for the preservation of stability. This was usually justified by emphasizing the SCO’s short existence and the need for its member states to first “grow into” the organization. Many now claim that the SCO has reached maturity, making it paramount that it adopts a more assertive stance in its field of expertise – improving the regional security situation.

Way Ahead

  • The recent SCO Summit proved to be a litmus test for the organization’s future significance. If its members really want to tout the SCO’s role as an efficient international institution, it will need to do more than making ambiguous declarations.
  • Instead, the SCO will need to meet its new responsibilities head on. It needs to create a roadmap to ease India-Pakistan tensions, if only to ensure the SCO’s continued existence and to earn itself the seal of international credibility.
  • One approach would be to form a short-term Contact Group, similar to the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, as a mediation instrument. The group could be comprised of one representative of each member state as a vehicle to help the Indian and Pakistani members overcome their stalemate.
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