Fueling growth engine
India is determined to play an important role in working out ways for energy collaboration among the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member countries at the coming summit at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan on 13 September. India’s external affairs minister Salman Khurshid is representing India at the summit and his priority includes energy collaboration and security in the region.
India presently has observer status along with Pakistan, Iran, Mongolia and Afghanistan. There are moves at the SCO to give full member status to India, Pakistan and Iran after completing all the formalities. India is looking for this upgradation since the full member status will help India in playing a more wider and constructive role in suggesting measures for meeting common challenges of security and development in the region.
Indian officials dealing with the SCO summit agenda mention that for India, the evolving security situation in Afghanistan is very important and India will like to have detailed discussions with the other full members of the SCO to ensure that the security of the region is ensured after the US withdrawal from the country and there is no threat of destabilization in the region in 2014 and after. Indian officials feel that the six other member countries like Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan also will share the Indian views on the need for a stable secular regime in Afghanistan after the
As India sees it, while dealing with Afghanistan, the SCO, once it is expanded, will be able to act more decisively in addressing the issue as all the potential new members like India, Pakistan and Iran as also Afghanistan with observer status, have got high stakes in the future set up of the Government in the battle turn country. Pakistan and Iran share borders with Afghanistan and both the countries have sectarian leverage in Afghanistan developments. India is now actively involved in the reconstruction of the battered Afghan economy and naturally the Indian Government wants to be sure of the security of its huge investments in the new set up. India wants that the Afghan solution has to take into account this massive involvement of India in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The continuing energy crisis has led Indian Government to intensify its efforts on energy security as the country imports nearly three fourths of its oil requirements through imports. India is looking for oil assets abroad while making all efforts to have long term arrangements for the supplies of both crude oil as also finished petroleum products. It is in this context, India is studying with keen interest the Russian move for an energy club within SCO. India has already high level of cooperation with the Russian companies and the Government policy is to enhance this scope for collaboration further. That way, India is ready to take advantage of any fresh cooperation proposal through SCO.
According to Indian sources, apart from geo political and strategic issues, energy is being increasingly identified as a major security issue within SCO. The proposal for SCO’s energy club was mooted as early as 2007 when the SCO looked for a common approach for boosting energy security. Russia intends to strengthen the energy club among SCO members in order to develop a joint course of action. As the Russians see it, the energy club intends to unite oil and gas companies from SCO’s producers, consumers and transit countries in coordination of strategies with the aim of increasing energy security. The grouping’s observers are also expected to play an active role along with full member states.
India has interests in discussions on capacity building in the central Asian region as also connectivity with the Eurasian region. Further, India will focus on counter terrorism and anti-narcotics apart from working ways to enhance economic and investment linkages. Since 2005, India has been actively participating in all SCO meetings open to observers. This has included meetings of SCO ministers for trade, transport, culture, home and emergency situations, SCO business forums, SCO energy club etc. India has also been cooperating in the field of counter terrorism with SCO’s Regional Counter/Anti Terrorism Structure (RCTS/RATS) based in Tashkent.
Connectivity issue is also of urgent importance to India. The map of the Eurasian region shows the interconnected of the SCO’s full member as also observer countries. The Silk Road is a symbol of this connectivity which has been there since the ancient times connecting the Eurasian region. Samarkand, Bukhara were the most active areas of the Silk Route trade which covered wide areas of India, China, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan apart from China. This route can be revived and that will give a new boost to the transportation and trade in the region. The SCO members, India feels, should take priority measures to develop this Silk Road and that will impart a fresh dimension to the trade relations between the SCO members and observers. Presently, Silk Road connections are utilized by terrorists and drug dealers. A concerted move to build Silk Road facilities will also help SCO in achieving its objective of fighting terrorism and drug peddling.
As an observer, India has been quite active in SCO forums. Now once it gets full membership, its work will get widened and Indian officials feel that its present relationship with both Russia and Chine, the two leading full members of the SCO, will help in making SCO more action oriented. India wants more concrete action from SCO members for solving the security issues and speeding up the process of development in the region. Indian membership of SCO will strengthen cooperation among the three major countries Russia, China and India ad they will be able to use the SCO forum to ensure stability in the Eurasian region as also to steer the course of rapid development.IPA