SCO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting


    In News

    • Recently the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)’s Foreign Ministers’ meeting was concluded at Tashkent in Uzbekistan.

    Highlights of the event

    • Expansion of SCO: 
      • India welcomed the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to include Iran.
      • 2021 SCO summit in Dushanbe agreed for Iran to join. 
    • Energy and food crisis:
      • India also raised the problems of the energy crisis and food crisis arising from the “Ukraine conflict” which must be “urgently addressed”.
      • The response required includes resilient and diversified supply chains as well as reformed multilateralism and zero tolerance towards terrorism.
    • Assistance to Afghanistan:
      • India highlighted its assistance to Afghanistan at the meeting.
      • India’s humanitarian support included wheat, medicines, vaccines and clothing.
    • Connectivity:
      • India pushed for Chabahar port to be a conduit for trade to central Asia.
      • Pakistan’s Foreign Minister promoted the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for trans-regional trade.


    • 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 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.
    • 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
    • Chabahar Port:
      • With the increasing presence of China in Iran, India has been concerned about the strategic stakes of the Chabahar port project.
      • The access to the Chabahar port may prove strategically important for India.
      • Chinese closer ties with oil producers can bring governance and energy security issues for India.
    • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC):
      • The CPEC is a collection of infrastructure projects that have been under construction throughout Pakistan beginning 2013. 
      • The CPEC is part of China’s larger Belt and Road Initiative.
      • India has protested the project from its inception since it passes through large chunks of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

    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 SCO for India

    • India’s upcoming Presidency:
      • India will take over the SCO Presidency in 2023.
      • India will also host the upcoming SCO Summit in 2023, which will be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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