The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai (China) by the
Republic of Kazakhstan,
The People's Republic of China,
The Kyrgyz Republic,
The Russian Federation,
The Republic of Tajikistan, and the
Republic of Uzbekistan.
It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism which had all the above said members except Uzbekistan.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter was signed during the St.Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in June 2002, and entered into force on 19 September 2003.
India and Pakistan joined SCO in 2017.
Official Goal of SCO:
Strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states;
Promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas;
Making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and
Moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO. It meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation.
The SCO Heads of Government Council (HGC) meets once a year to discuss the organisation's multilateral cooperation strategy and priority areas, to resolve current important economic and other cooperation issues, and also to approve the organisation's annual budget.
In addition to HSC and HGC meetings, there is also a mechanism of meetings at the level of heads of parliament; secretaries of Security Councils; ministers of foreign affairs, defence, emergency relief, economy, transport, culture, education, and healthcare; heads of law enforcement agencies and supreme and arbitration courts; and prosecutors general.
The Council of National Coordinators of SCO Member States (CNC) acts as the SCO coordination mechanism.
The organisation has two permanent bodies — the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.
The SCO Secretary-General and the Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO RATS are appointed by the Council of Heads of State for a term of three years.
The SCO's official languages are Russian and Chinese.
Member states: China, Pakistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Russia.
Observer states: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.
Dialogue Partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
Qingdao Meet of SCO outcomes:
India has stayed firm on its opposition to Belt and Road Initiative of China.
India signs two MoUs with China on the sideline of SCO for information sharing of Brahmaputra water and for export of non-Basmati rice to China.
SCO declaration condemned all forms of terrorism
Indian Prime minister coined the acronym SECURE for facilitating comprehensive security in the SCO region, which stands as follows:
S: Security of Citizens
E: Economic development for all.
C: Connecting the region.
U: Uniting our people.
R: Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity
E: Environmental protection
The declaration also showed its support for the Iranian nuclear deal. Iran is presently an observer member of the SCO.
Limitations of SCO:
Limited power to take decisions independently of their member governments.
It has been more of a talking shop with important issues like stability in Afghanistan. Although, stability of Afghanistan has been a recurring topic in SCO meetings but it is not being met with work in reality due to the obstructionism by members who prefer to tackle security issues at the bilateral level, and friction and distrust between members prevent the SCO from forming a unified policy on security issues in Afghanistan.Experts cite the absence of not only political will, but also a limited economic capacity for the bloc to take on a military role.
Lack of Consensus: Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan possess some of the world’s largest reserves of oil and natural gas and thus in June 2006 meet of SCO, Russia called for an creation of an Energy club which can serve as a “unified energy market” for oil and gas exports, while also promoting regional development through preferential energy agreements. However, the plan never materialised due to energy producers and energy consumer nations.
SCO and India:
Opposition to BRI: India is the only SCO member to oppose China’s Belt and Road Initiative. India has maintained the position that international connectivity projects should respect other countries sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Indian Isolation: It is the Russia-China dynamic that is shaping the trajectory of the SCO today with Russia focused on making the organisation as a challenger to the West and China more interested in making it a vehicle for the realisation of its geo-economic strategic aims. India might find itself isolated as a Russia-China-Pakistan alliance might be tempted to strike out common positions on regional issues. (Harsh V Pant).
Security: India’s concerns about terrorism emanating from Pakistan may not find wider resonance in a grouping where China will be all too ready to shield its ‘all-weather’ ally.
Security: India can also gain from SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) which is manned by professionals analysing key intelligence inputs on the movement of terror outfits, drug trafficking, cyber security threats and public information in the region about which we are largely unaware.
Energy Security: The Central Asian Region supplies around 10 percent of oil and energy to the world. With India being one of the most energy-hungry nations, involvement in the SCO provides it with an opportunity to satisfy its energy requirements through regional diplomacy. India’s pending energy projects like TAPI, IPI pipeline, CASA electricity transmission project which are blocked by Pakistan’s recalcitrant approach can get a much needed push through the SCO.
Geopolitical and Geostrategic:
Indo-Pak relations: SCO’s counter-terror exercises and military drills could be beneficial to the Indian armed forces. SCO might provide a rare opportunity for the militaries of Pakistan and India to share several multilateral tables – antiterrorism structure, military exercises etc. – under the SCO framework, which in many ways might change the regional climate and have a positive impact on Indo-Pak relations.
Reach out to Central Asian Region: SCO charter bars raising of bilateral issues and thus it can give India a platform for reaching out to Central Asian countries without interference from Pakistan, as happened in SAARC.
Convergence with China and Russia: India can use the SCO atmosphere for building better convergences with China and Russia as well as for minimising the intensity of China-Pakistan alignment which actually undercuts India’s direct access to Eurasia.