While Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi negotiated a five-point deal that they hoped would lead to a process of disengagement between aligned Indian and Chinese troops, on top of each other along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), it wasn’t just the host, Russia, who played a role behind the scenes.
- Indeed, on the occasion of its presence in Moscow, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) had an important role to play.
- The SCO was founded in June 2001, it was based on the regrouping of the “Shanghai Five” of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz Republic) and Tajikistan, who had joined the post-Soviet era in 1996, to work on regional projects. security, reduction of border troops and terrorism.
- A particular focus during all these years has been “conflict resolution”, given its early successes between China and Russia, and later in the Central Asian republics.
- The 1996 Shanghai Five meeting, for example, resulted in an “Agreement on Building Military Confidence along Border Areas ” between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyzstan.
- Tajikistan, which led to an agreement on the mutual reduction of military forces at their common borders in 1997. It later helped push the countries of Central Asia to resolve some of their border disputes as well.
- The 1997 Shanghai Five meeting, for example, resulted in an “agreement on the mutual reduction of military forces along China’s borders with Kazakhstan” and other agreements that resolved “the Disputes between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan over border issues and the Ferghana Valley enclaves” were facilitated by the group.
- In 2001, the Shanghai Five brought Uzbekistan into the group and appointed OCS, setting out its principles in a letter promoting what was called the “Shanghai Spirit.”
- Under its rules, the organization has two permanent bodies; the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Tashkent-based Executive Committee of the Regional Counterterrorism Structure (RATS).
- The Secretary General of the SCO and the Director of the SCO RATS Executive Committee are appointed by the Council of Heads of State for a period of three years.
- The SCO board meetings are shifted between the eight members (including India and Pakistan).
- The SCO also has four observer states: Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus, and Mongolia, which may be incorporated at a later date.
Main objectives of the SCO
The SCO describes its main objectives, which are part of its Charter adopted in St. Petersburg in 2002, as; “to strengthen mutual trust and neighborhood between member states; promote their effective cooperation in the fields of politics, trade, economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, protection environment and other areas; to deploy joint efforts to maintain and guarantee peace, security and stability in the region; and to move forward towards the establishment of a new democratic, just and rational international political and economic order ”.
- Undoubtedly, the SCO was viewed with some suspicion by the United States and Europe because of this, not least because of its desire to build a “new international political and economic order”, and was even nicknamed “anti-NATO”, for offering military cooperation.
- In 2005, the Astana declaration called on SCO countries to work on a “joint SCO response to situations that threaten peace, security and stability in the region”, indicating that the strategic ambitions of the SCO.
- The West and NATO worries intensified a decade later, when they imposed heavy sanctions on Russia for its actions in Crimea, but China came to its aid by signing a deal- $ 400 billion pipeline framework over 30 years.
- Since then, thanks to the personal bond between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the SCO has become a platform for Eurasian cooperation in a region rich in energy resources.
- The China Belt and Road Initiative, to which Russia is not a party but supports, and which is joined by all SCO members (except India), is also part of the SCO statements.
India and Pakistan joined the SCO as observers in 2005 and were admitted as full members in 2015. Membership of the SCO was considered one of the political options. The most important but confusing foreigners of the Modi government, as it came at a time when New Delhi was looking more closely at the West, and in particular at the maritime “quadrilateral” with the United States, Japan and Australia.
- India has explained its membership in these two seemingly conflicting groups as part of its principles of “strategic autonomy and multiple alignment”.
- Other contradictions were also noted. Since 2014, India and Pakistan have broken all relations, talks and trade, and India has refused to attend the ASACR summit due to tensions with Pakistan, but its two leaders there always attended in all meetings of the three SCO Councils: Heads of State, Heads of Government, Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, as well as other meetings.
- Although India has accused Pakistan of committing cross-border terrorism in all other multilateral forums, within the SCO, the armed forces of India and Pakistan even jointly participate in military and counter-terrorism exercises.
- Within the framework of the SCO’s regional counter-terrorism structure. In addition, the two countries are part of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, to discuss the future of Afghanistan, an issue on which New Delhi and Islamabad are deeply divided.
Over the years, the SCO hosts have encouraged members to use the platform to discuss differences on the sidelines. In 2009, India and Pakistan held the first talks after the Mumbai attacks on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Astana, where then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met.
- They are fulfilled and in 2015 Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the SCO summit in Ufa, for a meeting that even resulted in a joint statement.
- There have been no bilateral meetings between Indian and Pakistani leaders on the sidelines of the SCO since then, and the two sides have been deliberately ignored in recent years, although the SCO Secretary General has often voiced his opinion.
- We hope to solve your problems through dialogue, including last year after the Pulwama attack.
- Therefore, it should not have been surprising that the host Russian SCO encouraged and facilitated meetings between the defense ministers of India and China (September 4) and the ministers of the United States.
- Foreign Relations of India and China (September 10) to discuss the confrontation in the LAC region that has seen violent clashes, killings of soldiers and crossfire for the first time in 45 years.
- “The SCO Charter does not resolve a bilateral dispute, but it provides a comfortable platform to build mutual trust, expand cooperation, find common ground, and ultimately create the conditions for mutual trust.. Dialogue between countries”, said Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to India Roman Babushkin at a press conference this week.
- It remains to be seen whether the meeting in Moscow between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers leads to real progress on the ground at the level of the line of current control, where armies remain firmly anchored and the PLA has mobilized both troops and heavy equipment.
- If so, that would be a feather in the hat for the SCO, and if not, the SCO will certainly continue to provide places of alternative meeting for its disputing members, which is why it seeks to build a continental coalition they hope for its founders may one day be as strong as some of the other coalitions out there in in the west and south.