Main Examination: General Studies 2

(International Relations)

Why in News:

  • Recently, the Foreign Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) met in Goa.

Key Points:

  • SCO is a multilateral grouping consisting of eight member states namely China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
  • This year, out of the four observers, Iran and Belarus are set to be inducted as full members. Afghanistan and Mongolia are the other two observers. The dialogue partners are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
  • The main task of the foreign ministers' meeting is to prepare for the upcoming meeting of the Council of Heads of State or the SCO summit in July. The foreign ministers will come together to draft a declaration to be adopted at the summit, formalize the entry of Iran and Belarus into the SCO, and discuss other regional and international issues.
  • Last year, the foreign ministers' meeting hosted by Uzbekistan in July 2022 focused on Ukraine conflict, energy crisis and food shortage, Afghanistan, terrorism, trade and connectivity.
  • As SCO is dominated by China and Russia. Therefore, like last year, this year also the issues related to the Russia-Ukraine war and geopolitical changes in the world will be discussed in the SCO conference.

India will chair the SCO in 2023:

  • This year India got the presidency of SCO in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. India will chair the grouping for one year till September 2023 which will include the leaders of SCO member states. This will be the 23rd SCO summit, before which the 22nd SCO summit was chaired by Uzbekistan in the year 2022.
  • Varanasi has been designated as the first tourism and cultural capital of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for the year 2022-2023. This decision was taken at the 22nd meeting of the Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, this will promote tourism, cultural and people-to-people exchanges between India and SCO member countries. The decision also reflects India's ancient ties with the SCO member states, especially the Central Asian republics.
  • Under this major cultural outreach programme, several programs will be organized in Varanasi during 2022-23 and guests from SCO member countries will be invited. Scholars, writers, musicians and artists, photojournalists, travel bloggers and other guests will be invited to these events. With the aim of promoting cooperation in the field of culture and tourism among SCO member states, the rules for designating the SCO Tourism and Cultural Capital were adopted during the Dushanbe SCO Summit in 2021.

About SCO:

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, abbreviated as SCO, is an eight-member multilateral organization established on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. These countries, except Uzbekistan, used to be members of the Shanghai Five Group, which was formed on 26 April 1996 with the signing of the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Areas.
  • In 2001, during the annual summit in Shanghai, the five member countries included Uzbekistan for the first time in the Shanghai Five mechanism, which later became the Shanghai Six. Subsequently, the Declaration of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was signed on 15 June 2001 and the SCO Charter was signed by the heads of SCO member states in June 2002 which defines the objectives, principles, structures and forms of operation of the organization as well as establishes it internationally.
  • Astana Summit was held in July 2005 in which India was given observer status. In July 2015 in Ufa, Russia, the SCO decided to admit India as a full member. Following which India signed a Memorandum of Obligation in June 2016 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, thereby starting the formal process of joining the SCO as a full member. On 9 June 2017, India officially joined the SCO as a full member during the historic summit in Astana.
  • Its main objectives are to ensure regional security, resolve border issues, address terrorism and religious extremism, and enhance regional development.

Relations Between India and SCO:

  • India has age-old civilizational, cultural and spiritual ties with the SCO region. From Buddhist monks to spice traders, adventurous explorers to Sufi saints, interactions between India and SCO member states have resulted in exchange of goods, fusion of ideas, introduction of new cuisines and art-forms. India's membership of the SCO in 2017 was therefore an affirmation of India's keenness to deepen its historical ties with the region.
  • India has maintained active engagement with the organization since becoming a full member state in 2017. In 2020, India hosted the meeting of the second highest decision-making body of the SCO Council of Governments for the first time. India has carved a niche for itself in the SCO by emphasizing on three new pillars of cooperation – Startups and Innovation, Science and Technology and Traditional Medicine.
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced the concept of SECURE in 2018 at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in China. Explaining the SECURE concept, the Prime Minister said 'S' for security for citizens, 'E' for economic growth, 'C' for connectivity in the region, 'U' for unity, 'R' for sovereignty and integrity , and was introduced as 'E' for environmental protection.
  • India implemented PM Modi's announcements made at the Bishkek Summit of SCO Heads of State in 2019, aimed at greater focus on India's millennia-old shared civilizational heritage. These include: hosting of the first-ever SCO digital exhibition on Common Buddhist Heritage by the National Museum, and translation of 10 articles from Indian regional literature into Russian and Chinese languages.
  • India hosted the first ever SCO Young Scientist Conclave, the first Consortium of SCO Economic Think Tanks and the first SCO Startup Forum (in virtual-format). In B2B format, FICCI organized SCO Business Conclave with special emphasis on cooperation among MSMEs of SCO region through National Chapters of SCO Business Council. With the successful completion of the Presidency of the SCO Council of Heads of Government in 2022,India looks forward to greater trade, economic and cultural cooperation within the SCO by placing all peoples at the center of SCO activities and promoting greater peace and prosperity in the region. A new chapter in India's engagement with the SCO began when India assumed the presidency of the organization in 2022, succeeding Uzbekistan. Since then, India is an active member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Significance of SCO for India:

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization can play an important role for India in achieving regional integration with other Asian countries and stability on the borders.
  • SCO can also promote better connectivity in its region.
  • India can benefit from improvements in trade, energy and transport through the SCO.
  • SCO can also help in controlling drug trafficking and arms control in India.
  • SCO has a strong stand on terrorism and has been actively involved in bringing back stability in Afghanistan.
  • India can control terrorism sponsored by extremist religious forces, especially Islamic states, through other SCO member states.
  • Through SCO, India can freely engage with China and Pakistan on a single platform and discuss their security concerns in a peaceful manner.
  • It also allows India to engage with China and Pakistan without interference from Western states.
  • India can also gain significantly from Russia's cooperation on the growing Chinese dominance in Asian countries.


  • SCO is of great importance from a global point of view as it allows Asian countries to communicate and strategize without interference from western countries. For India, the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization may be relevant in improving relations with Russia, China and other Asian countries. India can significantly capitalize and use the influence of the SCO to manage security, terrorism, drugs and political concerns.



Mains Exam Question

Explaining the relationship between India and SCO, underline its significance for India.