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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 39, New Delhi, September 19, 2015

SCO’s Growing Role in the International Scene

Sunday 20 September 2015

by Hasan Hamidullah

The last SCO summit, which took place in Ufa (Russia) on July 9 and 10, was held in a highly deteriorating international situation, the worst of its kind since the formation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in 2001. The results of the agreements, concluded and signed at Ufa, testified to the major role the Organisation has been playing as a multilateral platform intended to discuss the most burning questions concerning the global political and economic situations, international security and stability.

The way in which decisions were approved at the session of the SCO heads of state and government was unique and of immense signifi-cance. These decisions related to cooperation among the member-states on border issues, problem of drug trafficking and the declaration dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory of the Allied Forces in World War II. According to close observers of the SCO and international experts, the vital achievement of the SCO summit and the principal contribution of Russia’s chairmanship of the Organisation lay in the weighty character of the Ufa Declaration on the one side and approval of the SCO Development Strategy-2025 on the other.

The growing value of the SCO came out in sharp relief in the member-states’ decision, at the start of the summit, to induct India and Pakistan as the Organisation’s full members. The participation of Iran in the SCO in the near future too will broaden the range of observers and dialogue-partners in the institution and is expected to transform the Organisation from a narrow regional club into a powerful forum of cooperation on questions of security and economy in the whole area spanning East Europe and South-East Asia, thereby doubtless ensuring the stability of this entire landmass.

The summit highlighted the deep concern of the heads of state and government of the SCO over the rapid strengthening of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the unprecedented growth in production of drugs on Afghan territory. It is generally accepted that the measures taken by the US to confront the armed groups that emerged in the current year have been by and large ineffective. Against this backdrop it becomes necessary and urgent for all the members, observers, dialogue-partners of the SCO to establish close multilateral cooperation and launch united endeavours to counteract both terrorism and drug trafficking.

As far as India is concerned, effective participation in the SCO will noticeably reinforce the weight of New Delhi in both the regional and international spheres and simultaneously have a positive effect on resolving its most pressing domestic and foreign policy problems.

However, the induction of India into the SCO would not be of much help in terms of utilising the country’s full potential in case the Indian side seeks to resolve within the SCO framework its individual problems without taking into consideration the interests of other members. For example, using the SCO forum as a platform to play the anti-Pakistan card and convince the rest of the member-states to exert influence on Islamabad in favour of New Delhi would be counter-productive. The SCO definitely has the capability to extend mediatory assistance for setting in motion a dialogue between India and Pakistan but without the Organisation’s members involving themselves in the knitty-gritty of resolving the bilateral problems.

In the realm of both information and propa-ganda the US is trying to adopt an increasingly aggressive and intensely critical position against the SCO. Washington views the developing states’ fruitful cooperation within the SCO as a genuine threat to its own plan to forge military and political alliances in Asia under the directive of the White House and Pentagon. As UN experts predict, the US will continue to provoke friction among the SCO member-states and intensify its attempts to discredit them.

From the standpoint of Indian interests, it is incumbent on New Delhi to pursue a course indepenent of foreign powers within the Organi-sation’s framework and enhance solidarity with the partners within the institution on relevant global problems that touch upon non-prolife-ration of nuclear weapons, resolution of crisis in hotspots, initiatives in international infor-mation security, opposition to militarisation of space et al.

What is undeniable is that the West’s critical responses to the SCO can be traced to the success of the Organisation’s enhanced comprehension of key aspects of global cooperation, something which cannot be overlooked or bypassed.