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Why SCO Needs India: Opinion

© Photo : Social MediaSCO States Leaders
SCO States Leaders - Sputnik India, 1920, 02.07.2024
India's External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar will represent India at the SCO Summit in Astana on 3-4 July. In a call with Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev last week, PM Modi conveyed India's "full support" for the success of the upcoming meeting.
India "stands out" in the nine-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) for having "excellent relations" with both the West and Russia, which makes it an extremely important member of the Eurasian political-security grouping, according to a former Indian Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar, who has served as New Delhi's envoy to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia.

"Individually, India is well-placed to play the role of a bridge to reduce mutual distrust between Russia and the West," Sajjanhar told Sputnik India. "However, as an organisation, the SCO may find it difficult under present circumstances to be a bridge between Russia and the West, or between China and the West for that matter."

In the meantime, the ex-diplomat reckoned that Kazakhstan was relatively well-positioned to try and alleviate differences between the East and West.
Further, Sajjanhar underscored that India's close relations with all the SCO states, its efforts to resolve the Afghanistan political situation and its stakes in bolstering Eurasian connectivity projects such as International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) were of critical importance to the grouping.
Earlier, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev the 'SCO Initiative on World Unity for Just Peace and Harmony' as one of the main outcomes of the meeting.
Addressing the SCO Foreign Ministers, Tokayev has stressed that the outcome of the summit would "contribute to the consolidation of international efforts to resolve conflicts in various regions of the world".


Meanwhile, Sajjanhar expressed confidence that New Delhi's backing of the INSTC and its efforts to link the Chabahar Port to the Moscow-backed corridor would be a "win-win proposition" for the Eurasian grouping, more so for Afghanistan, Central Asia and Russia.
In May, India signed a long-term pact with Iran for development of the Chabahar Port, effectively doubling down on its millions of dollars of investments despite the threat of US sanctions.

"If Chabahar and the INSTC are effectively used to reach out to Afghanistan and Central Asia, the route could turn out to be a very viable one to carry out energy and other trade between the regions," the expert stated.

Sajjanhar asserted that INSTC, once fully functional, would enhance trade and economic linkages between Russia and Central and South Asia as well.
He underlined that India, as the fifth-largest economy (according to the World GDP Ranking 2024 list), could prove to be a major market and investor for other Eurasian states.

Stabilising Afghanistan

The former Ambassador stated highlighted that India, much like other SCO regional partners, had stakes in stabilising the political and economic situation of Afghanistan. He added that the country's efforts on the issue were crucial in the workings of the 'SCO Afghanistan Contact Group'.
Additionally, India had been in "close contact" with Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan or Iran, on the Afghanistan situation, the analyst underscored.

"There appears to be a wide degree of understanding between the SCO countries on the Afghanistan issue. All the members back a pluralistic government in the country with representation of major ethnic groups, rights of women and minorities to be respected. All the regional players are opposed to the use of Afghan territory by terrorist groups to plan and execute attacks against third countries," he claimed.

He stressed that, at the same time, the grouping countries had been engaging with the Taliban government through the respective embassies in their capitals, as opposed to the Western policy of imposing sanctions on the current Afghan authorities.
Sajjanhar remarked that the regional states "have to play their part in bringing about political stability and economic viability in Afghanistan" as they were the ones most affected by instability in the country.

'Alternative Global Security Vision'

Meanwhile, a defence analyst and a critically acclaimed author Pravin Sawhney believes that the SCO was a sugnificant organisation as it advanced an "alternative" perspective.

"In my view, the SCO is an extremely important organisation for advocating an alternative global security vision, which is being advanced by Russia and China," Sawhney emphasised in conversation with Sputnik India.

Under Modi, New Delhi has constantly voiced its support for a reformed global governance architecture and a greater global say for non-western nations, be it at the United Nations (UN), BRICS or during its G20 presidency last year.

'SCO Remains Important for India'

Ex-ambassador Sajjanhar stated that the SCO, on its part, has also continued to remain important for India's foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi had made it a point to personally attend the SCO Summits in Qingdao in 2018, Bishkek in 2019 and then in Samarkand in 2022, Sajjanhar noted. He recalled that even as an "observer", Modi had attended the SCO Summit in Tashkent in 2016 and Astana in 2017, signifying the importance of the organisation in his foreign policy calculus during his first term.

India became a formal member of the SCO at the Astana Summit in 2017, when Modi described the grouping as one of the "main pillars of peace and security".
Sajjanhar highlighted that "substantive decisions" were taken in advancing intra-SCO cooperation during the New Delhi virtual Summit last year, the first under the Indian presidency.
He noted that India’s engagements with the SCO were shaped by Modi’s vision of ‘SECURE’, an acronym for Security, Economic cooperation, Connectivity, Unity, Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and Environmental protection.
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