21st Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of SCO

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    • The Prime Minister participated virtually in the 21st Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
      • He also gave a video message in the Joint SCO-CSTO Outreach Session on Afghanistan.

    Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

    • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation of Eurasian Nations with a secretariat in Beijing.
      • They represent 40% of the world population and approximately 20% of World GDP along with about 22% of the world landmass.
    • It is a political, economic and military organisation that aims at maintaining peace, security and stability in the region.
    • The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
    • It currently has 8 members with the latest being India and Pakistan who were made members in 2017.
      • Note: Turkmenistan is not a party to SCO.
    • There are 4 Observer States and multiple Dialogue Partners.

    Member States

    Observer States

    Dialogue Partners

    1. Kazakhstan
    2. China
    3. Kyrgyzstan
    4. Russia
    5. Tajikistan
    6. Uzbekistan
    7. India
    8. Pakistan
    1. Afghanistan
    2. Belarus
    3. Iran
    4. Mongolia
    1. Azerbaijan
    2. Armenia
    3. Cambodia
    4. Nepal
    5. Turkey
    6. Sri Lanka

    Source: SilkRoadBriefing

    Origin: Journey from Shanghai Five to SCO to the inclusion of India and Pakistan

    • Shanghai Five
      • Shanghai Five emerged in 196 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.
      • The aim was to ensure stability along the borders.
    • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
      • 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.
      • It is a statutory document that outlines the organisation’s goals and principles, as well as its structure and core activities.
    • India and Pakistan
      • India and Pakistan both were initially observer states.
      • Both were given full membership in 2017.

    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.

    Importance of SCO for India

    • Regional Integration
      • SCO can help in achieving regional integration, 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 including 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 have a check on the ever-growing influence of China in Eurasia.

    Key Highlights of the recent 21st meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State 

    • It was held on 17 September 2021 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in a hybrid format.
    • The Indian Prime Minister addressed the Summit via video link.
      • At Dushanbe, India was represented by External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar.  
    • Highlights of Indian PM’s Speech:
      • Growing Radicalisation and Extremism
        • The Indian PM put emphasis on the problems caused by growing radicalisation and extremism in the broader SCO region.
        • It runs counter to the history of the region as a bastion of moderate and progressive cultures and values.  
      • Afghanistan Crisis
        • The recent developments in Afghanistan could further exacerbate this trend towards extremism.
      • New Agenda of Moderation and Scientific Thoughts
        • SCO could work on an agenda to promote moderation and scientific and rational thought.
        • It would be especially relevant for the youth of the region.
      • Importance of Digital Technologies in Development Programs
        • He highlighted the Indian experience of using digital technologies in its development programmes.
        • He also offered to share these open-source solutions with other SCO members.
      • Significance of Regional Connectivity
        • The Prime Minister also stressed transparent, participatory and consultative connectivity projects in order to promote mutual trust.
    • Outreach session on Afghanistan between SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO):
      • The SCO Summit was followed by an Outreach session on Afghanistan between SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).  
      • The Prime Minister participated in the outreach session through a video message.
      • In the video message, Prime Minister suggested that SCO could develop a code of conduct on ‘zero tolerance towards terrorism in the region.
      • He highlighted the risks of drugs, arms and human trafficking from Afghanistan.  

    Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)

    • It is an intergovernmental military alliance (6 countries) led by Russia.
      • It was formed amongst the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and initially was the Collective Security Treaty (CST).
    • It came into effect in 2002. 
    • Its origin can be traced to the Collective Security Treaty, 1992 (Tashkent Treaty)
    • Its headquarter is located in Moscow, Russia.
    • Members
      • Armenia
      • Belarus
      • Kazakhstan
      • Kyrgyzstan
      • Russia
      • Tajikistan
        • Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan joined but left CSTO.
        • Uzbekistan would join the GUAM group, established by Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova as a balance towards Russian influence in the region.

    Way Forward

    • With clear Chinese support for the Taliban, regional stability is of utmost importance.
    • Through PM’ speech, India clearly sought support from Central Asian Nations for increasing diplomatic pressure on China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    Source: PIB