Expansion of SCO


    In News

    • Iran and Belarus are likely to be the two newest additions to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) grouping.
      • And, Varanasi will be declared the “Cultural and Tourism Capital” of SCO.

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    • Iran and Belarus:
      • 2021 SCO summit in Dushanbe agreed for Iran to join. 
      • Belarus has also begun the membership process for SCO.
        • The legal process regarding Belarus’ application for SCO membership will soon start, and the accession of Belarus will require the consensus of all member states. 
      • The upcoming SCO Summit will be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan where the issues with the expansion of the group will be discussed among other issues.
      • India will host the SCO summit in 2023.
    • Varanasi – Cultural and Tourism Capital of SCO:
      • The holy city of Varanasi, showcasing India’s culture and traditions over the ages, will be declared the first “Cultural and Tourism Capital” of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation for 2022-23.
      • The new initiative will come into force after the Samarkand summit.
      • It is a new initiative by the eight-member organisation to promote people-to-people contacts and tourism among the member states.
        • The title of ‘Cultural and Tourism Capital’ will be rotated among the member states.

    Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO):

    • About:
      • It is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation of Eurasian Nations with a secretariat in Beijing.
    • Aim:
      • It is a political, economic and military organisation that aims at maintaining peace, security and stability in the region.
    • Origin: Journey from Shanghai Five to SCO 
      • Shanghai Five emerged in 1996 from a series of border demarcation and demilitarization talks between 4 former USSR republics and China.
      • Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan were members of the Shanghai Five.
      • With the accession of Uzbekistan to the group in 2001, the Shanghai Five was renamed the SCO.
      • The SCO Charter was signed in 2002 and entered into force in 2003.
    • Inclusion of India & Pakistan:
      • India and Pakistan both were initially observer states.
      • Both were given full membership in 2017.
    • Members:
      • Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan.
    • Language: 
      • The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
    • Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation:
      • Heads of State Council:
        • It is the supreme SCO body that decides its internal functioning and its interaction with other States & international organisations.
          • It also considers contemporary international issues.
      • Heads of Government Council:
        • It approves the budget, considers and decides upon issues related to economic spheres of interaction within SCO.
      • Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs:
        • It considers issues related to day-to-day activities.
      • Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS):
        • It was established to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism.
      • SCO Secretariat: 
        • It is based in Beijing. 
        • It provides informational, analytical & organisational support.

    Significance of new membership in SCO:

    • Rising influence of SCO & countering west:
      • The significance of this round of expansion is that it shows the SCO’s rising international influence and that the principles of the SCO charter are being widely accepted.
      • China and Russia are looking to frame the grouping as a counter to the West — particularly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
    • SCO’s expansion compared to NATO’s:
      • As stated by SCO, Neither the SCO or the BRICS is an alliance by definition, as they do not have legally binding military treaties between and among member countries, and no specific third party enemies are targeted by the groups, which otherwise would be essential elements for making a alliance.
    • Iran’s membership:
      • As a country that has been long sanctioned and isolated by the US-led West, Iran, by joining the SCO that accounts for 40 percent of the world’s population and 28 percent of global GDP, could expect a breakthrough in its geopolitical and economic status quo.
    • Iran’s proposal of single currency:
      • Iran has also approached the SCO with a proposal to create a new single currency for carrying out trade among SCO members, in a push to counter the increasing weaponization of the US dollar-dominated global financial system.

    Significance of SCO for India:

    • Regional Integration:
      • SCO can help in achieving regional integration and promote connectivity and stability across borders.
      • Further, it also helps India to have a multilateral talk with friends like Russia and adversaries like China and Pakistan.
    • Regional Connectivity:
      • Although India opposes the Border and Road Initiative due to CPEC, it understands the importance of connectivity with Central Asian Nations.
      • With Afghanistan and Pakistan are adverse as of now, SCO can help in connectivity with Central Asia.
    • Security:
      • RATS can help India to improve its counterterrorism abilities by working toward intelligence sharing, law enforcement and developing best practices and technologies.
      • Through the SCO, India can also work on anti-drug trafficking and small arms proliferation.
    • Challenges of terrorism and radicalisation:
      • The whole of Central Asia is aware of the Taliban and ISKP in Afghanistan which mandates regional cooperation.
    • Geopolitical Advantage:
      • Central Asia is a part of India’s Extended Neighbourhood.
      • And SCO provides India with an opportunity to pursue the “Connect Central Asian Policy”.
      • It will also help India to check on the ever-growing influence of China in Eurasia.

    Source: TH