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Futuristic India at Shanghai Cooperation Organization
In 1996, five countries - China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan formed a group named as Shanghai Five for political, economic and military cooperation in the region. In 2001, Uzbekistan was also included into the group and its name was changed to Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
The SCO was further expanded in 2015 with the inclusion of India and Pakistan as full time members. Geographically, it is one of the largest organizations in the world spanning through Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. Initially, many political analysts believed that covert objective of the formation of SCO was to thwart the possibility of liberal democracy taking grounds in the region; however, SCO has now proved these arguments futile with the admission of India as a full time member which is a thriving democracy.
Objectives of SCO
The main objectives of SCO are as under –
- Strengthen relations among member states
- Promote cooperation in political affairs, economics and trade, scientific-technical, cultural, and educational spheres as well as in energy, transportation, tourism, and environmental protection
- Safeguard regional peace, security, and stability
- Create a democratic, equitable international political and economic order.
The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, is a permanent organ of the SCO which serves to promote cooperation of member states against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism.
Significance of SCO
With two permanent members of United Nations Security Council (Russia and China), four nuclear nations (Russia, India, China and Pakistan) and vast area connecting three oceans, the significance of SCO is bound to rise in the days to come. With the inclusion of India and Pakistan, the SCO is not a merely Central Asian organization but will have its presence in South Asia as well. Many analysts believe that Iran may also join the SCO in near future with the lifting of embargo over it. Once it materializes, not only SCO will have its presence in Middle East but will boast of one of the largest resources of energy.
Inclusion of India and Pakistan
In July 2015, after the years of deliberations, the SCO agreed to grant full time membership to India and Pakistan. Whether which move will strengthen or weaken the SCO is a matter which only time could tell. While inclusion of South Asian giants on one hand will give SCO the direct access to Indian Ocean, the Indo-Pak rivalry too had the potential to derail the SCO form its objectives as happened with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Nevertheless, benefits of inclusion of India and Pakistan definitely outweigh the doubts. With growing bitterness between Russia and the West, Russia is keen to expand its list of friends. This fact explains the Russian support to the expansion of SCO. China’s also started supporting expansion of SCO after adopting its New Maritime Silk Route Strategy.
SCO and India
Though SCO has two Indian rivals – China and Pakistan, it has one time tested friend i.e. Russia as well. While on one hand, the membership to SCO will give a fillip to the global geopolitical ambitions of India, it also answers two permanent woes of India energy security and terrorism. India is one of the largest consumers of energy in the world. Getting the SCO membership will help it participate in major gas and oil exploration projects in Central Asian which have one of the largest energy producers of the world.
So both India and Central Asia complements each other. India will also be able to play a major role in addressing the threat of terrorism in the region. India is also keen to deepen its security-related cooperation with the SCO and it’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) which specifically deals issues relating to security and defence.Both Russia and China have also favoured India’s inclusion saying that joining of the group by the largest democracy will add weight to the organisation. Thus the expansion of SCO will help in establishing a new multipolar world order which is currently dominated by the hegemony of the United States.
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