Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO): History, Significance & Challenges

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is an organization that focuses on political, economic, international security, and defense matters in Eurasia. It holds the distinction of being the largest regional organization in terms of geographic coverage and population.

  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation encompasses approximately 60% of the Eurasian area and 40% of the global population.
  • The combined GDP of its member states accounts for around 20% of the world’s GDP.
  • Its main goals are to promote cooperation in politics, security, economics, and culture.
  • It has a permanent secretariat in Beijing, China.
  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has a number of affiliated organizations, including the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) and the SCO Business Council.

Historical Background of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

It emerged as a successor to the Shanghai Five, which was established in 1996 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.

  • These countries, along with Uzbekistan, came together on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai to announce the formation of a new organization aimed at deepening political and economic cooperation.
  • Over time, the organization expanded its membership to include eight states, with India and Pakistan joining on 9 June 2017.
  • Iran officially became a member in 2023.
  • The SCO is governed by the Heads of State Council (HSC), which serves as its highest decision-making body and convenes once a year.

Members of SCO

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has 9 members, including China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

Significance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation for India

Cooperation on Security
– The organization focuses on security-related concerns, including terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
– It addresses regional issues like human trafficking, weapons trafficking, and terrorism through initiatives like the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).
– It collaborates with other organizations like the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to enhance cooperation on security, crime, and drug trafficking.
– It emphasizes the importance of countering cyber warfare and the dissemination of harmful information.
Military Activities
– It promotes military cooperation, intelligence sharing, and counterterrorism efforts.
– It conducts joint military exercises to enhance cooperation and coordination against terrorism and external threats.
– It has not directly provided military support in conflicts but focuses on maintaining regional peace and stability through military exercises and cooperation.
Economic Cooperation
– It aims to enhance economic cooperation among member states.
– It emphasizes joint energy projects, including oil and gas exploration, the use of water resources, and funding joint projects through the SCO Interbank Consortium.
– It prioritizes economic initiatives and joint use of resources to ensure food and energy security.
Cultural Cooperation
– Culture ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet regularly to strengthen cultural cooperation and exchange.
– It organizes events like art festivals and exhibitions to promote cultural exchange among member states.

What are the Ongoing Conflicts between Members of SCO?

  • India and China have ongoing conflicts over border issues. Despite several rounds of talks, tensions have not eased.
  • India and Pakistan face tension due to state-sponsored terrorism. Frequent ceasefire violations on the India-Pakistan border are also concerning.
  • Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have border issues and pose a threat to regional stability.
  • The border area between Taliban-led Afghanistan and Pakistan is unstable, leading to conflicts between the two countries.

Challenges Faced by Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as an Organization

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation faces several challenges as an organization. Some of these challenges include:

  • Power Imbalance: There is an inherent power imbalance within the organization, with China and Russia being the dominant players. This can lead to concerns about disproportionate influence and decision-making within the organization.
  • Economic Integration: Achieving meaningful economic integration and equitable development within the organization poses a challenge.
  • External Influences: It operates in a geopolitical landscape with competing interests from external powers. Balancing these external influences while maintaining unity and autonomy is a challenge for the organization.
  • Democratic Principles and Human Rights: It includes countries with varying levels of commitment to democratic principles and human rights. Striking a balance between member states’ sovereignty and promoting human rights can be a complex task for the organization.
  • Divergent Interests: It consists of member states with diverse interests, political systems, and priorities. This can make it difficult to reach a consensus on various issues, hindering the effectiveness of the organization.
  • Terrorism and Extremism: Its region is susceptible to terrorism, separatism, and extremism. Coordinating efforts to combat these threats requires cooperation and intelligence sharing among member states, which can be complicated due to differing national security concerns.


SCO provides a great opportunity for India to develop better economic and political ties with Eurasian countries. However there are a number of challenges faced by the organization.

Addressing these challenges requires ongoing dialogue, trust-building, and effective cooperation among member states within the framework of the organization.


How many Countries are in the SCO?

There are currently 9 countries in the SCO: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Belarus.

Is Iran a SCO Member?

Yes, Iran is a SCO member. It has been granted membership in 2023.

When did India join SCO?

India joined the SCO in 2017. It had an observer status before that.

What is the Old Name of SCO?

The SCO was originally known as the Shanghai Five, which was formed in 1996 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. The SCO was officially established in 2001 when Uzbekistan joined.

Which Country will Host SCO 2023?

India will host the SCO in 2023.

What is SCO?

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was established in 2001 as a regional intergovernmental organization. It comprises eight member states: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan.
The primary objective of the SCO is to foster regional cooperation on diverse matters, encompassing security, economics, and cultural exchanges.



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