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Politics | New Delhi should look at re-shaping SCO

For engaging a serious organisation having the potential to play a significant role in the emerging Asian architecture, India’s proposed HEALTH vision was more of a slogan rather than a serious policy announcement.

May 11, 2020 / 06:22 PM IST

The outcome of the recently concluded Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, shows that New Delhi is still in the process of discovering the utility of its membership in the organisation. Although India has been participating in SCO summits as an observer since 2005 and as a full-fledged member since 2017, policymakers still seem unclear what they want to achieve through this organisation.

In the changing geopolitical scenario, the SCO has clearly provided a delicate equilibrium to China, Russia and the Central Asian states. Although Moscow and Central Asians find India’s entry useful for an internal balance in the Chinese-dominated organisation, New Delhi has to bring something concrete to the table to be taken seriously by other members. This is obviously not an organisation to be used by New Delhi to score a few points over Islamabad.

After his re-election, the summit was the first multilateral engagement for Prime Minister Narender Modi. Indeed, this was a good opportunity for him to touch base with the Chinese, Russian, Central Asian, Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani leadership.

The Bishkek declaration asserted that “the global balance of forces is going through a reconfiguration” and “the SCO is a reliable platform for fruitful cooperation in the interests of creating a polycentric world order”. For India, this was an opportunity to present its coherent SCO strategy, which would have synchronised New Delhi’s connect Central Asia policy, Wuhan spirit, India-Russia partnership as well as its policies towards Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. In the changing geopolitical scenario, this was also an opportunity to signal western powers, including the United States about New Delhi’s intentions and objectives in a reconnecting Eurasia.