India is setting the stage for the upcoming meeting of the heads of the state council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)– a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance – by widening the scope of engagement to include more areas of cooperation, including startups and traditional medicine.
New Delhi earlier this month organized a conclave of foreign ministers in Goa in the lead-up to the SCO Leaders’ Summit to be held in July. This is the first time that India has assumed the presidency of SCO, after joining the organization in 2017 as a full member-state.
India’s external affairs minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, highlighted what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had articulated as the nation’s goal under its presidency–a ‘SECURE’ SCO.
“SECURE” is an acronym for “Security, Economic development, Connectivity, Unity, Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and Environmental protection.”
In a tweet after the meeting, Jaishankar said the current international “crises have exposed a credibility and trust deficit in the ability of global institutions to manage challenges in a timely and effective manner.”
“Reform and modernization of SCO will aid a more contemporary outlook, which India will actively support,” he added.
Jaishankar also expressed India’s appreciation for the support extended by the member countries for its proposal to create two working groups: one for startups and innovation, and the other for traditional medicine.
Addressing the menace of terrorism, the foreign minister said terror “has continued unabated and taking our eyes off it would be detrimental to our security interests”.
“Terrorism must be stopped in all its forms and manifestations, including cross-border terrorism. We must not allow anybody—individual or state—to hide behind non-state actors,” he added.
Jaishankar also addressed Beijing, while not naming it explicitly, in the context of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor by underlining that “while connectivity is key to progress, it must come with respect or sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the member states.”
In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war, Jayadeva Ranade, a former additional secretary in the cabinet secretariat, said an increasingly isolated Moscow may have become more dependent on Beijing for resources, increasing the latter’s dominance in the SCO.
Emphasizing that India has not been able to leverage the advantages of joining the SCO grouping, Ranade, who currently heads the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, suggested New Delhi could have had a dialogue with the Central Asian Republics independently.
Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu had arrived in India last month as part of SCO’s ministerial-level meetings, the first such visit since a deadly conflict between soldiers of both countries in June 2020 claimed the lives of 20 Indian troops.
Meanwhile, despite the grouping being riddled with multiple bilateral differences, India emphasized that its engagement with SCO has “helped the nation promote its relations with countries in the region with which India has shared civilizational linkages, and is considered its extended neighborhood”.
Drawing upon the “shared civilizational linkages” with the SCO nations and to reinforce India’s civilizational connect with the grouping, New Delhi had organized a two-day conclave in March that put the spotlight on their “shared Buddhist heritage”.
“Buddhism, with its profound vision of eternal harmony in the world, has spread far and wide and has touched the lives of inhabitants in all SCO countries centuries ago,” Union Minister for culture and Tourism G.K Reddy said, adding that the conclave aimed to renew the trans-cultural links between the nations.
India has so far hosted the meetings of SCO ministers of finance, environment, sports, transport, defence, culture, energy, and tourism.
The SCO comprises China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s visit to the Goa conclave earlier this month was the first such tour to India by a top Pakistani official in 12 years.
Iran, which has been an observer in the SCO since 2005, is scheduled to become a full member this year. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is expected to attend this year’s summit.
Kaumudi Kashikar-Gurjar contributed to the story.
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