India, Pakistan and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
Regionalism and regional cooperation have been increasingly important features of international relations since 1945, and this has gained momentum since the 1990s. The end of the Cold War in the 1990s further propelled regionalism, as the international order saw the establishment of a number of regional cooperation frameworks in the form of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for examples. Originally conceived in 1996 as the Shanghai Five, the SCO back then comprised of the countries of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and was a forum for building trust and peace along with a facilitation of the demarcation of borders of China and Russia and the three newly independent Soviet Republics. The Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions was instrumental in the birth of the Shanghai Five. The signatories to the treaty were Kazakhstan, People’s Republic of China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. The same countries signed the Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions on April 24, 1997 in Moscow. Subsequent summits of the Shanghai Five took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 1998, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and in Dushanbe in Tajikistan in 2000. At the summit in Dushanbe, the members agreed to oppose intervention in others’ internal affairs and to support each other’s efforts in safeguarding the sovereignty, territorial integrity and social stability. The annual summit in 2001 was held in Shanghai again, admitted Uzbekistan. Subsequently on June 15, 2011 the six member countries signed the Declaration of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, aiming to transform the organisation into a higher level of cooperation. The next year, the head of the SCO member states met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where they signed the SCO Charter which detailed the organisation’s purposes, principles, structures and the form of cooperation, and established it in international law. Given the alternative visions the grouping has, membership has been sought by several countries including Iran, Mongolia, India and Pakistan. Finally in 2014, after the SCO summit in Dushanbe, various signals from countries signalled that India and Pakistan would be invited to join the organisation at the next summit in Ufa in July 2015. Accordingly both India and Pakistan were inducted as members at the 15th summit on July 10th this year. India and Pakistan have had a tumultuous relationship since 1945. However, fact also remains that both have been important members of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation and are important players in the international system. In order to understand how the membership of this two could be a win-win situation for to understand what could be the individual gains for India and Pakistan respectively. For India, the SCO membership presents it with a fresh opportunity to constructively engage with China’s Maritime Silk Road strategy. Additionally, given the fact that the SCO military alliances, it is in line with India’s policy of non alignment. Leaving aside the relationship characterised by with China, the rest of the member countries have amicable relations with India. The membership could actually provide India with a platform to not just engage with China, but also to deepen its engagement with the other member countries, and could facilitate India’s participation in regional decision making. According to expectations, the SCO will play an important role in Afghanistan after the exit of the International Security Assistance Force(ASAF). This has implications for both India and Pakistan. India has a lot of stakes in the transition, and would SCO in contribution to deliberations and burden sharing in energy security and advancing connectivity in the region. One of the primary visions of the SCO is an enhancement of regional security, The Regional Anti Terrorist Structure (RATS) coordinates activities that include information sharing and the three evils of terrorism, extremism and separation. The ISAF’s withdrawal the RATS’ mission. The determination very much in harmony with Pakistan’s requirements, and the expansion of membership of the SCO- particularly in this regard would be immensely helpful. With respect to Pakistan, it holds enormous promise as a prospective energy and trade corridor for the region. The SCO’s robust endorsement of China’s Belt and Road Initiatives leads to a vehement support for the China Pakistan economic corridor. Pakistan can also utilise its geographical location to become a vital regional hub in the economic development of Central Asia. Additionally, the membership acceleration of the Russian-Pakistani cooperation. On April 16, Pakistan ever joint military exercises. Closer interaction as SCO members would further the warming up process.
As far as India is concerned, the SCO
membership would similarly help India strengthen its ties further with Central Asian countries. In April this year, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL)- a state owned power equipment maker signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Russian company INTMA to set up a gas based power project in Kazakhstan. With a possibility of more interactions at the SCO, India could aim at better economic integration with the countries of the Central Asian region. Economic integration is an important agenda of the SCO and expansion of the membership this context. The SCO membership way to build promising bridges with Central Asia, while maintaining its emphasis on reaching out to this region through direct bilateral channels. The importance of Central Asian states in India’s foreign policy has been recently demonstrated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to these states. The SCO as a forum could provide India with a leeway in pursuing energy interest. India already has large investments in the development of the Iranian Chabahar Port which could be instrumental in providing greater access to Central Asian countries. China has always had amicable relations with Pakistan. With India, despite problematic political relations, China is dependent on India as it is its largest trading partner in South Asia. But Chinese interest in India and Pakistan has increased particularly after adopting the new Maritime Silk Road strategy, and access to the Indian Ocean which could be seen as a plausible outcome after the membership would be valued not just by China but by the other members of the SCO as well. new strategy announced by China as greater connectivity will help both the countries to boost their exports. In 2015 itself, China announced infrastructure projects in Pakistan, and the 3000 kilometers long China-Pakistan Economic Corridoor worth USD 46 billion- also regarded a s the biggest connectivity project between the two countries after the Karakoram Highway built in 1970 will strengthen the route for China’s energy imports from the Middle East by about 12000 kilometers. An increased membership of the SCO could facilitate furthering of economic relations between China and Pakistan All in all, conferring membership to these two countries seems like a winwin situation for all involved. For India and Pakistan in particular, the SCO could prove to be an excellent forum to deliberate at the highest level on issues that could lead to a betterment of relations between the two. Besides, a betterment of relations coupled with increased bonhomie between all members could lead to an extension of the Russian Chinese oil and gas pipelines to India. India and Pakistan could also revisit the creation of the Turkmenistan- Afghanistan- Pakistan pipeline along with the Iran- PakistanIndia pipeline. Both India and Pakistan percentage of the global population market for exports. After the induction of India and Pakistan into the SCO, half of the world’s population would be represented, making the SCO the biggest regional body in that respect. Cooperation has been the hallmark of regional organisations, and the SCO with its extended membership is of an agent to foster cooperation and improved relations. The expanded way in conferring greater legitimacy on the SCO and will produce economic As stated by the Xinhua News Agency in 2014, the expansion will testify to the rest of the world that the SCO is a truly open and equal platform for safeguarding regional peace and development and not an exclusive and ambitious China led military alliance. While it could be argued that there is too much optimism and euphoria surrounding the expansion of the membership, fact remains that the extended membership at least provides the latest members in the form of India and Pakistan to at least analyse the ways in which this form of integration could lead to better outcomes that could affect the security and stability of the region and the world at large.