The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance. It was created in 2001 with India and Pakistan joining as full members in 2017.
The SCO’s primary goals, as outlined in its charter, are as follows:
1. Strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states.
2. Promoting effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, and making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region.
3. Moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
4. Combating Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism, which is often known as the “three evils” in SCO terminology.
For India, the SCO holds several key importance:
1. Regional Stability: SCO membership offers India a platform to work towards stability in Afghanistan, a region critical for India’s security interests.
2. Counter-terrorism: SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) provides a platform for India to cooperate on counter-terrorism activities.
3. Economic Opportunities: It opens up further opportunities for India to enhance economic, energy and strategic ties with Central Asian countries.
4. Balance of Power: India’s inclusion in SCO gives it a platform to counter China’s growing influence in Central Asia and can also help manage its complex relationship with Pakistan in a multilateral setup.
5. Connectivity: The SCO’s agenda on improving connectivity in the Eurasian region aligns with India’s own interests in improving connectivity with Central Asia.
However, India needs to carefully navigate the divergent interests among SCO members and ensure that its own strategic and security interests are not compromised.