The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was originally established to promote economic and security cooperation among member states. However, in recent years, conflicts have arisen among member nations, challenging its collaborative spirit. As a significant regional player, India has a vested interest in the SCO’s functioning and bears responsibilities to address these challenges. In 2023, India played a key role in the SCO by advocating for the inclusion of Iran as a new member.
Conflicts affecting the functioning of SCO
- Conflict between Central Asian Countries
- Border clashes at Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border.
- Example: India can draw from its historical role in mediating conflicts during the Korean War and the Suez Crisis to assist in resolving this border dispute and foster cooperation.
- Access to hydrocarbons.
- India-China rivalry
- Doklam standoff.
Example: India’s ability to de-escalate tensions during the Doklam standoff highlights its diplomatic prowess and potential mediation role within the SCO.
- BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) vs. Asia-Africa Growth Corridor.
- India-Pakistan conflict related to a boundary dispute and cross-border terrorism
Militancy in Kashmir.
Example: India’s diplomatic channels can be employed to address the Kashmir issue and promote dialogue within the SCO.
- Shia-Sunni issue.
- Border instability.
- Border dispute.
Example: India’s emphasis on promoting adherence to international norms within the SCO, akin to its advocacy for the United Nations’ principles, can inspire similar values within the organization.
India’s Role in Addressing SCO Conflicts:
- Diplomatic Channels Example: India’s past mediation roles, such as during the Korean War and the Suez Crisis, can be used as a template to mediate conflicts within the SCO, particularly the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border dispute.
- Economic Cooperation Example: India’s proposal for a consortium on the Chabahar Port project, involving multiple nations, showcases its capacity to lead collaborative economic initiatives within the SCO framework.
- Joint Military Exercises Example: India’s participation in SCO’s ‘Peace Mission’ military drills underscores its commitment to regional security and cooperation.
- Cultural Diplomacy Example: India’s “Connect Central Asia” policy, aimed at fostering cultural and academic linkages, can be leveraged within the SCO to bridge misunderstandings.
- Bilateral Engagements Example: India’s proactive approach in addressing conflicts through informal summits with China in Wuhan and Mamallapuram can be extended to other SCO members, including Pakistan.
- Promoting Multilateralism Example: India’s consistent emphasis on the role and principles of the United Nations during international summits can serve as a model for promoting adherence to international norms within the SCO.
India has demonstrated its potential to play a pivotal role within the SCO through historical diplomatic interventions and contemporary initiatives. By extending these efforts, India can help ensure that the organization remains a platform for cooperation and mutual trust, ultimately safeguarding its original objectives of fostering economic and security collaboration among member states.