India at SCOApprox Read Time: 4 min
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation significance to India:
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) holds special significance for India.
- The grouping comprises:
- India’s strategic partner and friend, Russia
- India’s two adversarial neighbours — China and Pakistan
- India’s four important Central Asian Republics (CARs) — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
- New Delhi has a clear three-pronged policy approach to the SCO members:
- Deepen ties with Russia
- Monitor and counter the influence of China and Pakistan
- Expand cooperation with Central Asian Republics (CARs)
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a unique plurilateral grouping that holds two summits a year:
- One at the Heads of State level
- The other at the Heads of Government level
2020 Heads of State summit:
- The Heads of State Council is the highest decision-making organ of the SCO.
- Russia hosted the 2020 Heads of State summit on November 10, virtually due to the pandemic.
- After the summit, the Moscow Declaration was issued.
- It covers political and security issues; trade and economic cooperation; cultural, humanitarian and public exchanges; and international contacts.
2020 Heads of Government summit:
- India will host (virtually) the 2020 Heads of Government summit on November 30.
- This will be India’s first time as host of a major SCO conference, having joined it as a full member in 2017.
- The Heads of Government Council is the second-highest organ of SCO, with a dual mandate to decide on budgetary matters and devise details of economic cooperation.
India and Central Asia:
- A rare blend of history, geopolitics, cultural, civilisational and economic imperatives connect India to Central Asia.
- The lack of adequate connectivity with the Central Asian Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan has been a major constraint for India.
- This is even more of a problem due to China’s money and its dominance through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the region.
- So it is necessary to conceive creative measures that enable India entities to expand their footprint in the region’s markets.
India at SCO is more economically focussed on the CARs:
- India’s economic diplomacy in SCO is focused less on Russia, China and Pakistan and more on Central Asian Republics (CARs).
- India’s trade with them rose from $1.4 billion in 2017-18 to $2.7 billion in 2019-20.
- Investment by India’s private and public sector companies — in gold mining, uranium, power and agro-processing — also increased.
Steps India can take to expand footprint in Central Asia leveraging SCO membership:
- Encouraging India’s startups:
- India’s start-up companies should be encouraged to lead the charge for creating new linkages.
- According to Niti Aayog, India is now the third-largest tech start-up location globally, with 38,756 officially recognised start-ups.
- At SCO, India has proposed setting up a special working group on innovation and start-ups.
- Traditional medicine systems:
- Traditional medicine is of considerable interest to the region.
- As a leader in the field, India is ready to collaborate with interested parties.
- A working group on this theme has also been proposed so that the knowledge of traditional and ancient medicine is spread across SCO countries complementing the contemporary medicine developments.
- MSME cooperation:
- India must encourage cooperation in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector in agriculture, energy, education, pharmaceuticals and ICT.
- Tourism with Buddhist themes:
- Given the salience of Buddhist connections, priority should be accorded to tourism.
- The SCO Heads of State have already expressed their admiration for India’s joint digital exhibition on Shared Buddhist Heritage, which runs from this November 2020 to February 2021 in New Delhi.
- Trade and Investment promotion:
- A granular dialogue on a trade and investment promotion programme is essential through sectoral working groups of the SCO Business Council.
- In this context, the SCO Business Conclave by FICCI in November 23 was seen as a welcome strep.
- India must take all necessary measures that enable Indian businesses to expand their footprint in the region’s markets.
- India businesses aim to focus on practical and targeted steps.
- The goal is to connect the past of Central Asia and India to their present and future, and bring prosperity to both regions.