SCO Defence Ministers’ Meeting

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    Recently, Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh addressed SCO Defence Ministers’ meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

    Key Highlights of the Meeting

    • The SCO member states focused on strengthening defence cooperation.
    • Terrorism was highlighted as the most serious threat to international peace and security and any act of terror and support to such acts, including cross border terrorism is a crime against humanity.
    • Highlighted non-traditional security challenges like pandemics, climate change, food security, water security and associated societal disruptions that can impact the national and international landscape.
    • Highlighted Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) role in Afghanistan’s current situation :
      • SCO  is the most appropriate forum to discuss the security situation of Afghanistan as it holds an observer status in SCO.
      • SCO has all the regional powers that have security and financial stakes in Afghanistan. As a regional security organisation, it can play a stabilising role in Afghanistan by neutralising the Taliban and balancing the external players.
    • The SCO charter clearly mandates the organisation to take decisive steps against the forces of terrorism, radicalism and separatism. It has a Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).
    • The SCO had created an Afghan Contact Group in 2005, which lost momentum, but was revived again in 2017. 
      • The withdrawal of the US forces has reactivated the members of the SCO. Russia, China and Pakistan are actively negotiating with the Taliban
    • Role of India 
      • The geostrategic location of India makes it both a Eurasian land power and also a stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific.
      • Its intent and aspirations are focused on the prosperity and development of the entire region. It affirms this intent through our national policy of Security and Growth for All in the Region(SAGAR).
        • Security and Stability are the most essential components to create a conducive environment for growth and economic development of the region and of our respective Nations.
      • India accords high priority to the consolidation of trust in the security domain within SCO as well as strengthening ties with SCO partners bilaterally on the basis of equality, mutual respect and understanding.
    • India helps the people of Afghanistan, which is facing violence and devastation over decades. So far India has completed 500 projects in Afghanistan and continuing with some more with total development aid of US dollar 3 billion.
    • Indian Armed Forces and DRDO played a stellar role to counter Covid-19 challenges.
      • During the global pandemic, India was able to provide support and assistance to countries around the world. This includes 6.6 crore doses of vaccines to 90 countries, support with medicine, medical consumables and equipment to 150 countries. 
    • ‘Vande Bharat’ logistic service helped over 70 lakh stranded people including foreigners move out of distress.
    • India also reiterates commitments to partner with fellow SCO Member-States to develop joint institutional capacities that respect individual national sensitivities and generate a spirit of cooperation to create contact and connectivity between people, societies and nations.

    How does membership of the SCO help India? 

    • Countering Terrorism : The Tashkent-based Regional Anti Terror Structure (RATS) provides access to counter-terrorism information which ensures stability in Afghanistan where India has completed many projects .
    • It helps in  protecting  the region from threats of radicalisation, violence and terror .
    • Connectivity: It  is important for India’s Connection with Central Asia.
    • India would significantly benefit from the grouping’s strengths in energy and natural resources and in turn India’s strong economy and vast market could drive economic growth in the SCO region.
    • Dealing With Pakistan & China:  It provides a platform for  India to engage constructively with China and Pakistan in a regional context and project India’s security interests.
    • It also helps in deepening  ties with Russia and expanding cooperation with Central Asian Republics (CARs).

    Challenges for India in SCO

    • The dominance of China: SCO is a China-dominated organization. Barring India, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been endorsed by all the members.
      • BRI is a concern for India as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) grossly violates India’s sovereignty.
    • Controlling Pakistan Sponsored terrorism: China has always condoned Pakistan’s link with terrorist activities in India. 
      • SCO may not prove very effective in controlling Pakistan sponsored terrorism.
    • Trust deficit: Growing closeness of Russia and China adds to the difficulties that India faces due to the China Pakistan axis in the SCO.
      •  Other member countries are also well disposed towards Pakistan. This puts India at the risk of being isolated in the organization.
    • Lack of connectivity with Central Asia and beyond: A major impediment in connectivity with Central Asia and Eurasia remains the strategic denial of direct land connectivity between India and Afghanistan and beyond by Pakistan.

    Way Forward

    • Maintain an independent voice: On BRI India has articulated its view that connectivity projects must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity.
    • Revitalize connectivity projects: The opening of Chabahar port and entry into the Ashgabat agreement should be utilized for a stronger presence in Eurasia.
    • Constructively engage Pakistan: India should mobilize opinion in the SCO to ensure its connectivity projects to extended neighbors are unblocked by Pakistan.
    Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

    • It is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation.
    • Its creation was announced on 15th June 2001 in Shanghai (China) by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.
    • India and Pakistan became members in 2017. Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia are observer states.
    • The SCO Nations, together encompass nearly half the human population on our planet. In terms of geography, it covers approximately three-fifths of the Eurasian continent. 
    • The SCO Charter was signed in June 2002 and entered into force on 19th September 2003.
    • This is the fundamental statutory document that outlines the organisation’s goals and principles, as well as its structure and core activities.
    • Aims
      • Strengthen mutual trust and neighbourliness.
      • Promote effective cooperation in politics, economy, technology, culture, education, tourism, environmental protection, etc.
      • Maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region.
      • The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body, which meets once a year.
    • Its chairmanship rotates on a yearly basis and Tajikistan is the chair for 2021.
    • Official Languages: Russian and Chinese.
    • Two Permanent Bodies: SCO Secretariat, Beijing and Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), Tashkent.