How India must utilise membership
The next summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Tashkent in Uzbekistan on June 23 and 24, will be the first one with the full membership of India and Pakistan. The summit is crucial in presenting a joint approach to the issue of regional security and to defeat any attempts by the rich nations led by the USA to divide the SCO members and impose roadblocks on the way of fostering energy security by the SCO member countries. The CIS members of the SCO as also China and Russia as the original founding members have the responsibility to steer the SCO to the right direction so that SCO can really emerge as a major grouping for ensuring security in the region and fostering economic collaboration at a faster pace so that the energy resources of the SCO members, especially in the Central Asian region, are developed taking into account the best interests of the members.
In more than a decade of its existence, the SCO has proved itself as a competent association of nations with established collaborative mechanisms that allow coordinating and carrying out joint developmental efforts in various sectors of the economy. The last summit of SCO at Ufa in
Russia Underlined the need for all round cooperation among the SCO members on the issue of regional security and expanding the areas of collaboration in trade and investment. The new chairman of the SCO Uzbekistan’s president Isam Karimov has the responsibility now to take measures to implement the agenda that was laid out at Ufa summit under the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr Putin in fact favoured the expansion of the SCO in a bigger manner. He even said that more than a dozen countries without current SCO affiliation, are craving for association.
Without going into the issue of further expansion of membership, the current SCO president has to ensure that all the formalities following the Ufa decision of full membership for India and Pakistan, are completed on time and both these South Asian countries can effectively take part as full members at Tashkent summit. The question arises because China, as a very important full member of SCO, has reportedly put a condition that India should agree to resolve all the disputed questions with its neighbors, meaning both Pakistan and China. India’s disputes with both China and Pakistan are long standing and these cannot be solved all on a sudden. If China sticks to the condition with the full knowledge that the talks for settlement of the border disputes will be prolonged, this will mean that China is not interested in seeing that the Ufa decision is implemented at Tashkent meeting and India gets full membership of SCO.
India must have taken up the issue with China at the highest level but the most important is that the Uzbek president as the chair of the SCO summit has to look after the modalities so that no delay is caused to implementing the decision for full membership for India. It is true that China was not interested at India becoming a full member of SCO so early. It was at Russia’s initiative that the issue was clinched along with the proposal to give membership to Pakistan which was backed by China. But now when China did agree at the Ufa summit for the full membership of both India and Pakistan, it is not diplomatically fair to create problems on the issues of modalities. This is an issue on which other members of the SCO should look at and find out a quick solution.
For both China and Russia, allowing India and Pakistan to enter simultaneously SCO as full members, was a sensible compromise. Russia is in need of firm allies after the western sanctions over Ukraine but India with its growing economic and political clout, is considered by Russia as a reliable partner.
Indian government of Narendra Modi finds Russia as strategic and dependable ally notwithstanding improvement in relations with USA. Despite all sweet talk by the Chinese senior leaders including the Prime Minister, China is taking stand against India on some critical issues. Uneasy over India’s defence ties with USA and Japan, China is blocking India’s admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Indian aspiration of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
China, Russia and India when admitted can really cooperate in a big way in making SCO a highly effective regional grouping against the latest US policies of domination and imposition in Asia and African countries. The latest developments in western Asia have once again revealed the aggressive nature of the US strategy. US oil companies have big interests in central Asian oil reserves. The US will like to influence the functioning of the SCO and will not like the SCO as a separate regional grouping which will fight the US policies of aggression and subjugation. SCO is the only organisation which can be free of the US domination and the leading members of the SCO, especially China and Russia have to ensure that.
As regards India and Pakistan, the full membership should make it easier for both countries to facilitate the process of solving their longstanding disputes. SCO forum should not be used for battling out the disputes but the ambience of cooperation can be taken advantage of to make some breakthrough in negotiations. It can be mentioned that at the last Ufa summit, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief had a meeting with the Indian Prime Minister which helped the process of negotiations to restart. Since Afghanistan is also associated with SCO and SCO leaders are feeling a real security threat from the Afghan Taliban, Al Qaeda and most recently the Islamic State, there is a supreme need for a joint strategy and India can effectively contribute to that. India must be apprised of the nature of political change in Afghanistan and the nature of dialogue with the Taliban representatives. India can make use of SCO summit to put pressure on both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
India has a big stake in the future of Afghanistan. The SCO can be utilised effectively to strengthen the democratic elements in the country by strengthening the legal economy and lowering trade barriers between Afghanistan and the SCO member nations. SCO could also help in developing Afghan projects’ especially the infrastructure projects. India is already contributing to the development of Afghanistan but this is not adequate and Afghanistan needs massive financial and technical help. The Afghans have to be ready to deal with the US withdrawal and SCO members should come to the rescue of Afghan economy. This will need wholehearted cooperation of China, Russia and India and India has to work for this.