Academic journal article International Journal of China Studies

India and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Issues and Concerns

Academic journal article International Journal of China Studies

India and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Issues and Concerns

Article excerpt


This article attempts to analyze why India should consider itself as an ideal candidate for SCO membership, despite the member countries indicating that they have no plans to accept new members in the near future. Nevertheless, India should continue to pursue its case for membership, as it will benefit both India and the SCO members. In order to understand and analyze this, the article discusses the origin and growth of SCO and its emergence as a regional international organization. It identifies the potential benefits that India can gain by becoming the full member of SCO. It also analyses India's present concerns and the challenges it would have to confront after obtaining the full membership. Finally, it examines the prevailing perception of the US on SCO and the potentials of possible US engagement with SCO in the near future.

Keywords: India, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, energy, China, Central Asia

JEL classification: F51, F52, F53, F59

1. Introduction

In an increasingly integrated world, multilateralism has become vital in dealing with the new world order. According to John G. Ruggie, multi- lateralism is "an institutional form that coordinates relations among three or more states on the basis of generalized principles of conduct, i.e., principles which specify appropriate conducts for a class of actions, without regard to the particularistic interests of the parties or the strategic exigencies that may exist in specific concurrence" (Ruggie, 1993: 11). Apparently, in the present world order, multilateralism is seen as the most legitimate and consequently the most effective way of dealing with transnational issues. In this context, one of the notable trends in promoting multilateralism has been the emergence of various strategic and regional organizations, such as European Union (EU), Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Organization of American States (OAS), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), African Union (AU) and so on. The main reason for the emergence of regional organization is that countries have begun to realize that regional organizations are the way of transforming a complex regional security into a security community with an intention to mitigate the security problems through the creation of collective institutions based on common values and objectives (Dutta, 2011: 494). Furthermore, the regional organizations are a way to achieve their strategic interests in the region and also work towards addressing the global commons. In this regard, SCO is no different.

2. The SCO: The Origin and Growth

The SCO was established in 2001, consisting of six members - China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Gradually over the years membership of SCO has expanded. Presently it consists of five observer members - India, Pakistan, Iran, Mongolia and Afghanistan and the dialogue partners include Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey. The driving philosophy for establishing SCO was "Shanghai Spirit" - which emphasizes on harmony, working via consensus, respect for other cultures, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and non-alignment.

SCO, like other organizations continues to insist that it is not directed against any particular external threat or power (anti-western or US), but focuses on the maintenance of internal security and economic integration within and outside the region. However, many western analysts and policy makers regard SCO as anti-US, anti-western bloc, or as a Russian and Chinese anti-Western vehicle to counterbalance US interest and strategies in Asia-Pacific region (Aris, 2009; Thomas, 2008: 1321-1344). This argument was strengthened when SCO during the Astana Summit (2005), called for US to vacate its bases in Central Asia and rejected the US-sponsored Color revolutions in the region. In addition, western countries to a certain extent are concerned about the SCO's increasing engagement with Iran, Pakistan and India (Rothacher, 2008: 68; Maksutov, 2006). …

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