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SCO Summit: What's in it for India to expand country's global influence? EXPLAINED

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar represented India in Kazakhstan’s Astana at the SCO Summit 2024 and delivered Prime Minister Narendra Modi's message to the grouping.

Edited By: Ashesh Mallick @asheshmallick07 New Delhi Updated on: July 06, 2024 11:25 IST
S Jaishankar, SCO Summit, India, China, Russia, Pakistan
Image Source : PTI External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit 2024 was held in Kazakhstan’s Astana on July 3 and 4, which was represented by Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar-led delegation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not be present at the Summit and his message was delivered by Jaishankar on terrorism, climate change and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. The high-level event was attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif.

Importance of SCO for India

One of the primary reasons India became a part of the grouping of the countries formed after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, among others, was Russia’s primary role in the group and its emergence as a “non-West” platform. SCO, comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Iran, China, Pakistan, and Russia, is one of the few international organisations which deal with the security issues. The grouping consists primarily of Asian members.

Heavyweights of the region, Russia and China, have established their positions as an alternative to the Western borders. Besides the BRICS, which also has India, South Africa and Brazil, the two nations are seen putting their foot forward to position themselves against the US influence.

Given the dynamic situation, India’s level of participation in the grouping in the future is not clear, with its adversaries on two sides of the border – China and Pakistan.

Indian and Chinese troops are in the midst of a tense standoff since 2020 on the eastern border, with uncertain chances of a quick resolution. Besides, on its western border, relations with Pakistan are too frayed on the issue of terrorism.

Why did India join SCO?

India's interest in joining the bloc stemmed from its stance of a presence of multipolar world. India has long sought access to Central Asia due to its natural resources, however, the efforts did not yield fruits due to its tensions with Pakistan. India had plans for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India via Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, security concerns and evolving situation in the region derailed the process. A possible reason India became a part of the grouping was to use the platform to push Pakistan to act against terrorism. 

India’s message to SCO

India gave a veiled message to both its adversaries – Pakistan and China – with its statement on terrorism and respect for territorial sovereignty.

"We gather today in the backdrop of pandemic impact, ongoing conflicts, rising tensions, trust deficits and increasing number of hotspots around the world. These events have put significant strain on international relations and global economic growth. They have aggravated some of the problems that have emanated from globalisation. Our gathering is aimed at finding common ground to mitigate the consequences of these developments," PM Modi said in his remarks delivered by Jaishankar.

The Indian Prime Minister welcomed Iran and Belarus as new members of the SCO and said the economic bloc occupies a significant part of India's foreign policy. He also mourned the death of former Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash in late May.

What is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation?

The origins of the SCO lies in the ‘Shanghai Five’ which was formed in 1996, consisting of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan then. With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 into 15 independent nations, concerns spread across the region regarding extremist religious groups and ethnic tensions propping up. Aiming to tackle these issues, a grouping was raised for cooperation on security issues.

Later on June 15, 2001, SCO was established in Shanghai as an international organisation. Uzbekistan was included as the sixth member. It soon expanded to nine nations with the inclusion of India and Pakistan in 2017. Russia supported India’s entry as a longstanding strategic partner. China, too, backed its ally Pakistan to prevent the balance of powers from tilting in Russia’s favour. Belarus also became a part of the grouping. Afghanistan and Mongolia hold Observer Status.

India was made an observer at the SCO in 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping, which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region. The SCO is an influential economic and security bloc and has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations.

ALSO READ | SCO Summit: Jaishankar delivers PM Modi's message on terrorism and respect for territorial integrity

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