Eurasia Is Promising
GS 2 India & Foreign Relations International Organisations & Groupings
- 2023 is a significant year for India, as it will host multiple global events, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit.
|Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO):
Origin: Journey from Shanghai Five to SCO
· The Shanghai Five was formed in 1996 as a result of a series of border demarcation and demilitarization negotiations between four former Soviet republics and China.
· Members of the Shanghai Five included Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.
· With Uzbekistan’s accession in 2001, the Shanghai Five became the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
· The SCO Charter was ratified in 2003 after being signed in 2002.
Inclusion of India & Pakistan
· Both India and Pakistan began as observer states and were granted full membership in 2017.
· The 2021 SCO summit in Dushanbe approved Iran’s membership in the SCO.
· Belarus has also initiated the SCO membership procedure.
· The official languages of the SCO are Russian and Chinese.
· Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Structure:
Heads of State Council
· It is the supreme SCO body that determines the organization’s internal functioning and its interactions with other states and international organizations.
· It also examines contemporary international issues.
Heads of Government Council
· It approves the budget, discusses and resolves upon issues pertaining to the economic interaction spheres within the SCO.
Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs
· It discusses issues pertaining to daily operations.
· It was created to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
· It is headquartered in Beijing and provides organizational, analytical, and informational support.
Significance of Eurasia for India:
Varanasi – Cultural and Tourism Capital of SCO
- The holy city of Varanasi will be the first “Cultural and Tourism Capital” of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation for 2022-23, showcasing India’s culture and traditions throughout the centuries.
- The appellation of ‘Cultural and Tourism Capital’ will be rotated among the eight member states.
- RATS can assist India in enhancing its counterterrorism capabilities through intelligence exchange, law enforcement, and the development of best practices and technologies.
- Through the SCO, India can also combat narcotic trafficking and the proliferation of small arms.
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organization can aid in attaining regional integration and promoting connectivity and stability across borders.
- It also enables India to engage in multilateral discussions with allies such as Russia and adversaries such as China and Pakistan.
- Central Asia is part of India’s Extended Neighbourhood.
- SCO affords India the opportunity to pursue the “Connect Central Asian Policy”.
- It will also assist India in containing China’s expanding influence in Eurasia.
Opportunities & potential:
Trade & commerce
- SCO assumes significance in light of India’s desire to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) with Eurasia-based nations.
- The Eurasian nations have the potential to be long-term energy (oil, natural gas) and natural resource (uranium, iron ore, etc.) partners.
- India’s trade relations with China, Russia, and Pakistan are well-known; therefore, it would be prudent to investigate other markets within the SCO.
- Concentrating on pharmaceutical and allied products could be a smart place to start. India will have a great deal of room to expand its pharmaceutical exports to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
- In the current geopolitical environment, it is nearly impossible for India to penetrate the Chinese market in these four economies.
- However, India has the potential to make greater inroads in the pharmaceutical industry.
- Infrastructure development opportunities in Eurasia remain mainly unexplored by India.
- Over the years, India formulated numerous strategies to establish a connection with Central Asia. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, for example, has the potential to satisfy India’s energy requirements.
Hospitals and clinics
- Given its experience in other developing economies, India could extend cooperation through the infrastructure development initiative by establishing hospitals and clinics in Eurasia.
Central Asian e-network for education & medicine
- India is also intending to establish a Central Asian e-network with its hub in India in order to provide tele-education and tele-medicine connectivity between Central Asian states.
- Indian companies have in the past effectively implemented projects in a variety of sectors and in diverse international markets, including Africa.
- They have also demonstrated the ability to execute a variety of projects in challenging environments.
- Since Eurasia offers a diverse array of opportunities across industries, Indian project exporters could partner with foreign entities to enter this market. Nonetheless, they will have to compete with China in the region.
Volatility of the region
- Afghanistan’s instability and terrorist safe havens in the Af-Pak region have stymied numerous connectivity projects initiated by SCO member states and other Eurasia-regional nations.
Pakistan’s refusal for connectivity projects
- By denying to facilitate connectivity through its territory, Pakistan has impeded strategic, economic, and cultural interests.
- For example, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline has been suspended since 2006 as a result of insecurity in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s impediments.
Illicit drug trade
- Another common challenge for the SCO region is the illicit drug trade emanating from the Af-Pak region.
- In 2021, more than 80% of opium and heroin supplies to the global opium market originated from Afghanistan via various routes.
- The increased involvement of terrorist organizations in the drug trade has presented the SCO with new geopolitical challenges.
Perception of anti-West forum
- The West continues to believe that the SCO is an anti-Western forum.
- While it is essential for India to prioritize security concerns at SCO meetings, the potential for economic and trade cooperation with SCO members in Eurasia must also be explored.
- SCO is possibly the only forum where India and countries of this region gather together.
Daily Mains Question
[Q] What are the significance and potential of India’s economic and commercial cooperation with SCO members? What geopolitical challenges does Eurasia currently face?