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All you need to know about Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on June 14. Photograph:( PTI )

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Jun 14, 2019, 05.54 PM (IST)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday wrapped up his two-day visit to Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek where he took part in the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit. PM Modi held bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summit and urged all the member countries to unite against terrorism.

So what is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and what position does it hold in the world order? Here’s an explainer.

What is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)?

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a Eurasian (Euro-Asian) political and economic organisation which originally emerged from Shanghai Five, namely China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The permanent intergovernmental international organisation was formed in June 2001 in Shanghai (China) after demarcation of China’s borders with the four newly independent States that appeared after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Uzbekistan later signed as the new member in 2001 and the organisation re-christened itself the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. It was during this time that the SCO broadened its agenda to include political, economic and security cooperation.

Watch: At SCO summit, PM Modi says 'end state-sponsored terror'

How did India join the SCO?

The organisation then expanded its membership to eight countries when India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on June 9, 2017, at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. The SCO’s objectives are centred around cooperation between member nations on security-related concerns, military cooperation, intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism.

What are its objectives?

It is mainly aimed at military cooperation between the members and involves intelligence-sharing, counter-terrorism operations in Central Asia.

The presence of both China and India with its massive population boost helps in expanding the SCO as a strong multilateral institution. It presently has Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia as the observers. SCO today has about half the world’s population and a quarter of its GDP.

In 2003, SCO member states signed a 20-year Programme of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation for the establishment of a free trade zone within the territory under the SCO member states. In 2006, SCO’s agenda widened to include combatting international drug trafficking as a source of financing global. Later in 2008, SCO actively participated in bringing back stability in Afghanistan.

What is India's role in SCO?

The SCO is India’s important key to making inroads into Central Asia. India can use the SCO platform to enhance its ties with the Central Asian Republics (CAR) nations. The primary gain that New Delhi can avail from this membership can also be attributed to its interests in Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. As China consolidates its energy and economic foothold in Central Asia, with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it has become momentous for India to follow.

The strategic aspect of SCO is another important factor. With China and Russia in the group, India's permanent spot in the club is symbolically significant. The ever-present and expanding challenges of terrorism, radicalism, and instability pose a grave threat to the sovereignty and integrity not only of India but also of countries in its broader neighbourhood.

India’s security, geopolitical, strategic, and economic interests are closely intertwined with developments in the region.

Story highlights

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday wrapped up his two-day visit to Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek where he took part in the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit. PM Modi held bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summit and urged all the member countries to unite against terrorism.