SCO Summit - RSTV: In Depth


Anchor: Teena Jha
Importance of this Episode:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reach Qingdao for the 18th SCO Summit on the 9th of June. This is the first SCO Summit that India will attend as a full member of the SCO. The two-day summit is likely to see India to pitch for a concerted, regional and global action against terror networks and favour effective connectivity links to boost trade.
  • India is also keen on deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its regional anti-terrorism structure that specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.
  • In today’s episode, we focus on the agenda of the SCO summit, a history of how the organization evolved and its objectives.

Analysis by the Experts:

  • India’s focus on the summit will be:
  1. Strengthening cooperation to fight terrorism
  2. Improving connectivity among member countries and
  3. Bringing peace and stability in the region

A Note on the Summit:

It is the fourth time that the summit is being held in China. The SCO has 8 member states, including India; 4 observer states, and 6 dialogue partners. After being founded nearly two decades back in 2001, the SCO now boasts of 8 full members. The latest entrants being India and Pakistan who will participate as full-fledged SCO members for the first time.

India and Pakistan were earlier observer nations. India was admitted as a full member into the SCO in June, 2017 at the SCO meeting is Astana, Tashkent.

The other 4 full-fledged members are China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. PM Modi will attend the SCO heads of states meeting, in both the restricted as well as the extended formats. Apart from taking part in the SCO summit, PM Modi will hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese President, Xi Jinping on the sidelines on Saturday (9th June, 2018). The meeting comes after an informal summit between the two leaders in April, when PM Modi and Xi Jinping held wide ranging discussions.  


  • The SCO Summit is expected to focus on areas of cooperation between the member countries and the situation in the region. The SCO’s consensus driven model will compel China and India to face incongruities in their own regional security priorities. The summit comes weeks after PM Modi’s address at the Shangrila dialogue where the PM had emphasized that Asia and the world would have a better future when the two countries work together with trust and confidence. PM Modi is also expected to hold nearly half a dozen bilateral meetings with the leaders of other SCO countries, however, there is no official word on whether there would be any interaction between PM Modi and Pakistan President who is also scheduled to attend the summit.
  • China which is the host country is making a mark in the area of artificial intelligence as well. Some of its expertise in the field is on display at the SCO summit that even has digital lockers for journalists that can be operated through facial recognition.

What will India’s agenda at the summit be?

  • For India, the major focus at the SCO summit will be connectivity and terrorism. It will focus on increasing access to Afghanistan through Pakistan. Besides using this forum as an opportunity to push the fight against terrorism.
  • The focus will be on regional security challenges with a significant outcome document on counter-terrorism. Apart from this, issues like connectivity, economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges will also be part of the discussion.
  • As a regional grouping, the main focus of the SCO is to ensure regional security and connectivity of central Asian countries with the rest of the member countries.
  • They are also expected to discuss the situation arising out of US sanctions against Iran and the belt and road initiative (BRI).
  • The members are also expected to hold talks on the issue of the Korean Peninsula.
  • The sanctions that have been imposed by the United States on Russia, on Iran, and on North Korea; those sanctions will also come up for discussion. The situation in the North Korean Peninsula, will also be an issue that will be discussed.
  • For India, the major focus will be on connectivity and terrorism.
  • India will focus on forging connectivity from India to Afghanistan, through Pakistan. India will also use the opportunity to push the fight against terrorism.
  • It gives an opportunity to India to work with the other major powers of the Eurasian region- in particular, that of Russia and China. This will go a long way towards ensuring that extremism and religious fundamentalism, which is plaguing West Asia, Pakistan, and so many other countries, is contained and controlled in the Eurasian region.
  • PM’s participation in Qingdao involves participation in the welcome banquet, hosted by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, in the evening of 9th June, 2018. The main day of the SCO summit is 10th June, 2018. PM will attend the SCO heads of states meeting in both the restricted as well as the extended formats.
  • In addition, bilateral meetings of the Prime Minister are planned on the sidelines of the summit. The SCO summit is a forum which enables India to engage with the countries of Central Asia. The meeting with Pakistani President is not on the agenda of Prime Minister Modi, despite the fact that Pakistan is the latest entrant of the summit with India.
  • All the members will sign a common declaration and agreement on the 10th of June, 2018, at the end of the summit.
  • The SCO summit comes in the backdrop of a trade war between China and the US, fresh sanctions against Russia and the cancellation of the nuclear deal between the US and Iran.
  • India will raise the issue of multi-polarity and reforms in the US system. Further, the scope of political unanimity among the member countries will be raised. It will be interesting to see how China responds to the issues of terrorism and the idea of balance of power.
  • The SCO summit is also taking at a time when the Malabar exercises are going on. India, US, Japan and Australia are talking in the form of the Quad and Pakistan has entered into the SCO summit for the first time as a member. It will interesting to see how India pushes forward the issue of terrorism, and how the India-China relationship is being redefined.
  • The main areas of cooperation for the 8 member SCO are
  • Security
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Economic Development and Economic Growth
  • Cultural Harmony and
  • Cultural Exchange

A brief note on the SCO:

  • The SCO is a Eurasian economic, political and military organization.
  • The SCO grew out of the Shanghai Five that was founded in 1996 with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan as its original members.
  • After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, China had a large number of undecided and disputed borders, with many of these countries that became independent after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. One was the Russian Federation which was a product that emerged after the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Then there was Kazakhstan, which has a border of about 1700-1800 kms with China. Then Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. These were the original 5 members.
  • In June 2001, Uzbekistan joined the group, and the Shanghai Five was renamed as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
  • In June 2002, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter was signed. The SCO Charter came into force in September 2003. It is the fundamental statutory document that outlines the organization’s goal and principles, its structure and core activities.
  • In June 2017, India and Pakistan became permanent members of the SCO. This took the number of full members in the group to 8. The presence of the most populous nations on the globe- namely, India and China, makes the SCO an organization with the largest population coverage.
  • Over the years, the SCO has become a comprehensive regional organization. In fact, the largest in terms of geographical coverage and population. For India, this is the first summit as a full member state.
  • Apart from the 8 permanent member states, the SCO has 4 observer member states- namely: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia.
  • Countries like Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners in the organization.

The main goals of the SCO include:

  • Strengthening mutual trust, neighbourliness among member states.
  • Promoting cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research, technology and culture.
  • Enhancing ties in areas like education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection
  • Maintaining and ensuring peace, security and stability in the region
  • Moving towards establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order

Organisational Structure of the SCO:

  • The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO
  • The HSC meets once a year, adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters
  • The Heads of Government Council (HGC) is the second-highest body
  • The HGC meets once a year to discuss multilateral cooperation strategy and priority areas, resolve current important economic and other cooperation issues, approve the annual budget
  • Apart from the HSC and the HGC, meetings are also held at the level of heads of parliament, secretaries of Security Councils, ministers of foreign affairs, defence, economy, transport, culture, education and healthcare
  • The Council of National Coordinators of SCO member states acts as SCO coordination mechanism
  • The SCO has two permanent bodies- the SCO Secretariat which is based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, based in Tashkent
  • The Council of Heads of State appoints the SCO Secretary-General, Director of Executive Committee of Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure for three years.

Originally formed as a confidence-building forum to demilitarize borders, the SCO’s goals and agenda broadened over the years, to include increased military and counter-terrorism cooperation as well as intelligence sharing. In recent years, economic cooperation has become one of the most pressing goals of the organization.

The India-China Relationship

The India-China relationship has been marked by border disputes and even a war. But, the fact remains that India was the first non-communist country to recognize the People’s Republic of China after its proclamation in 1949. Also, China has time and again claimed parts of India’s territory as its own. This has resulted in heightened tensions between the two countries. Here’s a look at how the relationship evolved between the two countries down the years:

  • India and China won their independence almost at the same time
  • While India became independent on 15th August 1947, The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) defeated the Nationalist Party on October 1st, 1949. On 30th October, India became the first non-communist nation to recognize the People’s Republic of China and in 1950, appointed K.M. Panikkar as the first Indian ambassador to China.
  • In 1954, China and India signed the Panchsheel document, taking India-China relations to a new level. However, China’s stand on Tibet came as a disappointment to Nehru and his vision of peaceful coexistence.
  • On 3rd April, 1959, India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama, who had escaped from Lhasa after China’s annexation of Tibet.
  • This was the start of relations taking a bad turn between India and China. India-China conflict over border issues started in the 1950’s, with China beginning to occupy parts of Indian territory on the China-India border.
  • China launched a massive attack on India on 20th October, 1962. The border clash resulted in India’s defeat as the Chinese army pushed Indian forces to within 48kms of Assam. The war ended with China declaring a unilateral ceasefire on 21st
  • Relations between China and India deteriorated during the rest of the 1960’s. India and China decided to restore diplomatic relations in 1976 after a 15 year diplomatic halt. Relations started to thaw in December 1988 with the visit of the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi to China. Several agreements on economy, trade, science and technology were signed during this visit.
  • In 2004, India and China proposed opening up of Nathula and Jelepla passes in Sikkim.
  • In the same year (2004), bilateral trade surpassed US$10 billion mark for the first time ever.
  • In April 2005, Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao visited Bangalore to push for increased India-China cooperation in high-tech industries.
  • In 2006, China-India reopened Nathula Pass for trading after 44 years.
  • In 2010, Wen Jiabao, accompanied by 400 Chinese business leaders visited India to boost trade between the two countries.
  • In April, 2011, during the BRICS summit in China, the two countries agreed to restore defence cooperation.
  • After the summit, China also stopped the practice of administering stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The relationship entered a new phase with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India on September 2014. Breaking protocol, PM Narendra Modi, received him in Ahmedabad. China promised $USD 20 Billion in terms of investments in India over 5 years during his visit.
  • In May 2015, PM Modi visited China to further boost the bilateral relations.

Further Reading:
UPSC aspirants are advised to read the latest available press-releases available on the Press Information Bureau (PIB) website.  

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