[Editorial Analysis] Don’t bank on Shanghai group

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Shanghai group
Mains level: International and regional groupings

Context:

• Incoming days the Shanghai Cooperation Organization going to hold meet in Tajikistan to discuss and take action on the Afghan situation.

About Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO):

• The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organization, 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.

• The Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter was signed during the St. Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in June 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003.

• This is the fundamental statutory document that outlines the organization’s goals and principles, as well as its structure and core activities.

• The historical meeting of the Heads of State Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was held on 8-9 June 2017 in Astana whereby full membership to the Organization was granted to the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The SCO’s main goals are as follows:

• Strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness 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.

Current Membership Status:

• The SCO comprises eight member states, namely the Republic of India, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan;

• The SCO counts four observer states, namely the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Belarus, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Mongolia;

• The SCO has six dialogue partners, namely the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the Republic of Turkey, and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

Significance of SCO in Afghanistan:

• The Afghan crisis is a major opportunity for the SCO to realize its regional ambitions.

• The role of SCO becomes very significant because of its sponsors and members.

1. Whereby the two great powers of the east are founding members of the SCO.

2. SCO’s current full members and potential full members share the border with Afghan, which becomes the only region with a focus exclusively on Central and South Asia.

3. The broad membership gives more scope for the SCO to deal with the Afghan issue in a better way.

• The diversity of SCO membership that affects the coherence is the major feature.

• Russia is keen to build a regional institution in its Central Asian periphery which runs parallel to its Strategic Traiangle plan with China and India.

• With the US retreat from Afghan, both Russia and China felt ease and joy because of a potential opportunity that the retreat provided to them.

Challenges within SCO:

1. Since its formation, SCO has failed to deepen its regionalism in Central Asia.

2. Many of its institutional promises for two decades have remained just as a promise.

3. Although both Russia and China are at peak of their relation, but their interests are not totally the same in Central Asia because Russia sees itself as the sole and only protector of the Central Asia region.

• In this background, Russia though actively participated in confidence building measures under the SCO, it had developed its own security organization in the region under the Central Security Treaty Organization.

• Also, Russia is reluctant to back Chinese proposals to promote trade integration under the SCO banner because Russia prefers Eurasian Economic Union.

• China one of the great power of SCO has been kept out of CSTO or EAEU which is a reason for the major weakness of SCO.

• At the same time, many of the Central Asian members of the SCO have quarrels among themselves that prevented them to develop collective approaches for their common security challenges.

Divergence on Taliban:

• Some experts believe Turkmenistan forms as a weak link in the defence against the Taliban’s potential threats to the region because:
• It is not a member of any political groupings.

• Its principle of neutrality is in sync in engaging the Taliban.

• Members like Uzbekistan, Pakistan, China are quite vocal in supporting the Taliban regime.

• However, Countries like Tajikistan and Iran have been sharply critical of the Taliban.

• Due to this divergence, it is highly difficult for the SCO to come up with a regional solution for the Afghan crisis.

Way ahead:

• At this juncture, the only real Afghan convergence is between Pak and China which can try and push the SCO towards a positive engagement with the Taliban.

• India needs to make full utilization of the SCO’s diplomatic possibilities without any illusions.

• In the upcoming meet, India needs to push and stress the members on the efforts to be needed to defeat the three evils- Terrorism, Extremism and Separatism.

Conclusion:

• The need of the hour for India is that it must contribute to the SCO’s collective effort to hold the Taliban and Pak to their promises, it also needs to focus on finding common ground with those SCO members who share India’s concerns about Afghan.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the INSPIRE Awards – MANAK (Million Minds Augmenting National Aspiration and Knowledge), consider the following statements:

1. The INSPIRE Awards – MANAK scheme is aligned with the ‘Start-up India’ initiative launched by the Prime Minister of India.

2. The scheme aims to motivate students in the age group of 10-15 years and studying in classes 6 to 10 to become future innovators and critical thinkers.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

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