Shanghai Cooperation Organization
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), or Shanghai Pact is a political, economic, and security alliance, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan;
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter, formally establishing the organisation, was signed in June 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003.
- The organisation has expanded its membership to eight countries when India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO, it meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organization.
- Military exercises are also regularly conducted among members to promote cooperation and coordination against terrorism and other external threats, and to maintain regional peace and stability.
- The SCO is widely regarded as the “alliance of the East“, due to its growing centrality in Asia-Pacific, and has been the primary security pillar of the region. It is the largest regional organization in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population.
- In 2017, SCO’s eight full members account for approximately half of the world’s population, a quarter of the world’s GDP, and about 80% of Eurasia’s landmass.
- The Shanghai Five grouping was created 26 April 1996 with the signing of the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions in Shanghai, China by the heads of states of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
- In 2001, the five member nations first admitted Uzbekistan in the Shanghai Five mechanism (thus transforming it into the Shanghai Six). Then all six heads of state signed on 15 June 2001 the Declaration of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation,
- In June 2002, the heads of the SCO member states met in Saint Petersburg, Russia. There they signed the SCO Charter which expounded on the organisation’s purposes, principles, structures and forms of operation, and established it in international law.
- On 9 June 2017, at a summit in Astana, India and Pakistan officially joined SCO as full members.
- The Council of Heads of State is the top decision-making body in the SCO. This council meets at the SCO summits, which are held each year in one of the member states’ capital cities.
- The Council of Heads of Government is the second-highest council in the organisation. This council also holds annual summits, at which time members discuss issues of multilateral cooperation. The council also approves the organisation’s budget.
- The Council of Foreign Ministers hold regular meetings, where they discuss the current international situation and the SCO’s interaction with other international organisations.
- The Council of National Coordinators coordinates the multilateral cooperation of member states within the framework of the SCO’s charter.The Secretariat of the SCO is the primary executive body of the organisation.
- It serves to implement organisational decisions and decrees, drafts proposed documents (such as declarations and agendas), function as a document depository for the organisation, arrange specific activities within the SCO framework, and promote and disseminate information about the SCO. It is located in Beijing. The current SCO Secretary-General is Rashid Alimov of Tajikistan, appointed to the office of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Secretary-General in January 2016.
- The official working languages of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are Chinese and Russian.
- Presently, the SCO comprises eight member states, namely the India, the Kazakhstan, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, the Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Both India and Pakistan became full members of the SCO in 2017.
- The total size of the national economies of the SCO members is more than 20 percent of world GDP. The International Monetary Fund predicts that by 2020 it will already be 35 percent. With such an impetus, the economies of the SCO member countries may increase to 38-40 percent by 2025. This pace is impressive, given today’s mixed trends in the global economy.
- The SCO counts four observer states, namely the Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.
- The SCO has six dialogue partners, namely Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.
- Mongolia became the first country to receive observer status at the 2004 Tashkent Summit.
- The position of Dialogue Partner was created in 2008.Following countries have been accorded this status
- Guest attendances include ASEAN,Commonwealth of Independent States(CIS), Turkmenistan and United Nations in 2004 (where it is an observer in the General Assembly, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2011, and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and African Union in 2018.
Main Focus Areas
A) The SCO’s main goals are:
- Strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states;
- Promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas;
- Making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and
- Moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
B) Cooperation on security
- The SCO is primarily centered on its member nations’ Central Asian security-related concerns, often describing the main threats it confronts as being terrorism, separatism and extremism.
- At SCO summit, held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in June 2004, the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) was established.
- The SCO announced plans to fight cross-border drug crimes under the counter-terrorism rubric.
- SCO signed an agreement with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, to broaden cooperation on issues such as security, crime, and drug trafficking.
- The organisation is also redefining cyber warfare, saying that the dissemination of information “harmful to the spiritual, moral and cultural spheres of other states” should be considered a “security threat”. An accord adopted in 2009 defined “information war”, in part, as an effort by a state to undermine another’s “political, economic, and social systems.
C) Military Cooperation
- Over the past few years, the organization’s activities have expanded to include increased military cooperation, intelligence sharing, and counterterrorism.
- There have been a number of SCO joint military exercises.
- China and Russia have teamed up for large-scale war games in 2005 (Peace Mission 2005), 2007 and 2009, under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
- The SCO has served as a platform for larger military announcements by members.
D) Economic cooperation
- A Framework Agreement to enhance economic cooperation was signed by the SCO member states on 23 September 2003.
- Proposed a long-term objective to establish a free trade area in the SCO, while other more immediate measures would be taken to improve the flow of goods in the region.
- SCO prioritizes joint energy projects; including in the oil and gas sector, the exploration of new hydrocarbon reserves, and joint use of water resources.
- SCO has initiated many large-scale projects related to transportation, energy and telecommunications and held regular meetings of security, military, defense, foreign affairs, economic, cultural, banking and other officials from its member states.
- The creation of the SCO Interbank Consortium to fund joint projects.
E) Cultural cooperation
- Cultural cooperation also occurs in the SCO framework. Culture ministers of the SCO met for the first time in Beijing on 12 April 2002, signing a joint statement for continued cooperation.
- An SCO Arts Festival and Exhibition was held for the first time during the Astana Summit in 2005.
Importance/Impacts of Shanghai Cooperation Organization
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has emerged as an effective model of multilateral cooperation based on mutual trust, equality, harmonious coexistence of different cultures and civilizations.
A) Largest Regional Structure
- SCO has become the largest regional structure in the world, covering 60 percent of Eurasia’s territory with a population of over 3.2 billion people, and the SCO member states produce almost a quarter of global GDP.
B) Promote equal Partnership
- It can be considered as the first in the history of building an equal partnership of unbalanced, multi-scale states with different economic and political potential, cultural and civilizational features via
- Voluntary membership
- Equality of participants
- A consensus model of decision-making
- The SCO’s driving philosophy — emphasizes harmony, working by consensus, respect for other cultures, non-interference in the internal affairs of others, and non-alignment.
C) Reduce Global Tensions
- With the heightening of geopolitical tensions, growing protectionism on a global scale, the complex nature of threats and challenges, in fact, require collective efforts to create a more fair and polycentric model of the global structure. And SCO is becoming a bearing structure for future world order.
D) Address the challenge of terrorism, separatism, and extremism
- SCO Regional Antiterrorist Structure (RATS), has provided significant results in countering terrorism, separatism and extremism.
- Joint anti-terrorism exercises are conducted through law enforcement agencies and the armed forces.
- A significant place in the activities of the SCO is the problem of information security.
- RATS SCO has been countering the use of the Internet for terrorism and extremism purposes, by limiting access to 80,000 Internet resources containing 500,000 materials and stopped the activities of 360 participants in Internet communities related to terrorism and religious extremism.
E) Promote global anti-drug efforts
- The authorities of the SCO member states have seized about 40 percent of the total amount of heroin and marijuana confiscated throughout Eurasia
F) Working towards Afghanistan Solution
- Restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan forms a central issues on the international agenda of the SCO
- In 2018, meetings of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group were held in Moscow and Beijing, which made an important contribution to common efforts at the inter-regional and international levels.
- In addition to facilitating the negotiation process, member states provide substantial material and technical assistance to Afghanistan, especially with regard to infrastructure and railway construction. Besides, hundreds of Afghan students go to universities in member states.
G) Explore the economic potential:
- The SCO Charter provides for the promotion of comprehensive and balanced economic growth, social and cultural development in the region as they form the key goals and objectives of the SCO economic agenda
- In recent years, transport, energy, e-commerce, information and communication technologies, tourism, agriculture, banking and finance are considered as priority areas for the organization, with the prospect of expanding the use of national currencies in trade and investment activities.
India and SCO
- The summit provides an opportunity for the Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet informally on the sidelines of a multilateral event.
- The two sides are obliged to cooperate on issues of mutual interest without bringing in their bilateral disputes. Signing off on joint counter-terrorism exercises will be a new form of engagement between the two militaries.
- The SCO’s relevance for India lies in geography, economics and geopolitics.
- Its members occupy a huge landmass adjacent to India’s extended neighborhood, where India has important economic and security interests. Its Central Asian countries border Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. A narrow sliver of land separates southern Tajikistan from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
- India has to carve out a political and economic space for itself in Central Asia, alongside Russia’s role as net security provider and China’s dominating economic presence. The Central Asian countries would welcome India breaking into this Russia-China duopoly.