Thursday 9 July 2015

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) | Ufa Meet, India's Membership

Why in news?
The Russian town of Ufa, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is attending the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summits, is suddenly the most important city. 
The BRICS summit to be held in Ufa coincides with the SCO meeting for the first time since 2009.

About SCO:

  • Formed in 2001 by the leaders of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. 
  • Earlier, the countries, except for Uzbekistan, were members of the Shanghai Five, a political union formed in 1996. 
    • After Uzbekistan joined the grouping in 2001, the Five turned into the Six and subsequently took its current name. 
  • At present, 
    • five countries — Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan — have observer-nation status
    • while three more — Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka — have dialogue partner status.
SCO: Objectives, Structure:

Source: RBTH

The SCO has not accepted any new members since its initial formation in 2001, the organisation has managed to expand rapidly by granting states “observer” and “dialogue partner” status to countries. 

UFA Meeting 2015 : Outcomes- (WILL BE UPDATED)


India's bid for SCO Membership:
India had formally applied for membership during the SCO summit in Dushanbe last year.
India, alongside Pakistan, is expected to be elevated as full-fledged members of the strategically-important SCO from being merely observers.

Why the SCO members want India to join?
Each of the six original members, though, have varying geostrategic reasons for wanting India on board — a sign of how complex the challenges of shaping the new Asia are. 

  • The four Central Asian states — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan — want a counterweight to the dominance of Russia and China. 
  • Russia wants a counterweight to China’s growing power in its Central Asian backyard and a new partner to show its adversaries in Europe and the US that it is not without friends. 
  • China sees expansion as a step towards giving the organisation heft — especially since its ally, Pakistan, is also joining up.

Why should India be a member?

  • It opens up trade, energy and transit routes between Russia and China that pass through Central Asia, that were hitherto closed to India. 
  • Iran’s observer status will ensure the SCO serves as a platform for India to discuss trade through the Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar, and link them to the Russian proposal for a North-South Transport Corridor
  • This circumvents India’s situation of being hemmed in owing to lack of access to markets through Pakistan
  • While the SCO charter disallows bilateral issues being taken up, the security grouping provides a platform for India and Pakistan to discuss them, as it will when Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif meet. 
  • With Russia and China taking the lead, the SCO could even prove a guarantor for projects such as the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) and IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipelines that India has held off on security concerns. 
  • The SCO summit will provide a valuable interface to engage with Afghanistan’s neighbours at a time when so much is changing in its security outlook, between the international troop pullout and talks with the Taliban. 
  • Finally, the SCO is an important counter-balance to India’s perceived tilt towards the U.S. and its allies on security issues. 
    • In a politically polarised world, with the U.S. and Europe pitted against Russia and China and where all the powers are economically interlinked, India’s best hope to emerge a leader lies in its ability to bridge the two. 
Challenges for India:
  • Fear of being viewed with suspicion by JAPAN, US, Britain ,etc.
  • To ensure the two great powers already at the table do not undermine its own interests. 
    • In 2005, for example, the SCO called for a timetable for the US to shut down bases in Central Asia — bases that India, however, saw as important elements in stabilising Afghanistan.

  • Speaking at the Nazarbayev University in Astana, Mr. Modi said Central Asia’s importance faded because it became “a new fault-line between great empires to the east, west and south”. 
  • In that sense, India’s emergence now depends on striving to be a bridge, not a fault-line, in full balance with the great powers globally.

[Source: The Hindu, Indian Express]


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