By Maria Amjad
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit 2017 was held on the 8th and 9th of June in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The Summit was particularly important for India because its status in the organisation changed from an observer country to a full member country.
Before leaving for the Summit, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said in a statement that India’s permanent membership of the SCO will make it one of the largest organisations in the world representing over 40 percent of humanity and nearly 20 percent of the global GDP.
Revamping latent transnational deals
The permanent membership will help India to work closely with other Central Asian countries. India is one of the biggest energy-consuming countries in the world and relies heavily on imports in order to meet half of its natural gas needs. The Central Asian region possesses large resources of oil and natural gas reserves. Therefore, once the SCO membership is under the belt, India will seek the gateway to Central Asia’s massive energy fields.
The Standing Committee of Parliament on Natural Gas and Petroleum has also advised the government to revive its long-delayed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, following the announcement of Iran’s change of status from an observer to a permanent member in the next Summit. India had previously abandoned the IPI pipeline following sanctions on Iran over its suspected nuclear program. The IPI pipeline was proposed with the aim of transporting natural gas from Iran to Pakistan and India. With all the three countries coming together under one platform, the SCO will provide an opportunity to New Delhi, Islamabad, and Tehran to revive this long-standing project.
The committee has further stressed the need to pursue the transnational pipelines for the national energy security. It proposed that the SCO can act as a guarantor for projects such as the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) to bolster economic ties between Afghanistan, South Asian and Central Asian countries.
Improving military capabilities
The permanent membership of the SCO will also offer India with some unique opportunities to get constructively engaged with Eurasia. Modi believes that this membership will serve as a natural extension of India’s ties with Eurasia. India will be able to address shared security concerns, particularly in combating terrorism and containing threats posed by ISIS and the Taliban.
India will also benefit from stepping up cooperation, especially by participating in the existing SCO’s processes such as the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) that shares key information and intelligence on the movements of terrorists and drug-trafficking. Likewise, participation in the SCO’s counter-terror exercises and annually conducted military drills will benefit Indian armed forces to understand the operational tactics of other militaries. This could also instil greater confidence at the regional level.
Strengthening bilateral relations with China
With a full membership, India also aims to achieve regional and global stability, as well as prosperity. Modi, by meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Summit on 9th June, is already using the opportunity as a bid to stabilise Indo-China ties.
The meeting has come amid growing differences between the two countries over a host of issues, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China-India recent border clashes, and Chinese objections to India becoming a member of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The Indian Foreign Office had earlier reaffirmed that the Summit will be a perfect platform to mediate the tensions between the two Asian giants in a friendly atmosphere and look forward to conclusive solutions to these issues.
Enhanced synergy with Russia
Russia traditionally pushed India’s case for full membership of the SCO at the Tashkent Summit in 2016. It is believed that this gesture by Russia will lead to even “closer Russian-Indian cooperation”. It would open up gates for collaboration in civil nuclear energy, partnership in the natural gas, petrochemicals sector, and liaison in the space sector.
The Russian decision to back India was also supported by Kazakhstan and Tajikistan who have close ties with India. Therefore the growing proximity of India to Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan will open new gates for trade and robust diplomatic ties.
Pushing for greater alliance with Pakistan
Modi also met his Pakistani counterpart Sharif at a dinner held in honour of the visiting heads of state in Astana. Both the leaders just exchanged pleasantries at the cultural gala amid frosty bilateral ties, deadlocked talks, and escalating hostility along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.
Many experts believe that the permanent membership for India will only serve its purpose if India uses this opportunity to take a cooperative position on the current Indian-Pakistan parley. Hence, it’s high time for both the countries to start using opportunities, such as this, for substantive regional integration and cooperative problem solving, rather than making it yet another platform for trading barbs and shooting banal allegations at each other.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
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