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Editorial of the Day: China’s Growing Role in Inner Asia & India’s Challenge (Indian Express)

Context: The article is discussing the visit of the Chinese and Russian defence ministers to attend a ministerial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Delhi. India is currently chairing the forum (rotating presidency), and this meeting will provide an opportunity for India to discuss a range of bilateral issues with other SCO members, including the ongoing border confrontation with China and Russia’s supply of spares to their arms inventory amidst the war in Ukraine. The article highlights the significance of this meeting and the attention it is drawing, given the geopolitical tensions and competing interests in the region.

China’s Growing Role in Inner Asia & India’s Challenge Background

About SCO

Origin Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is an intergovernmental organisation established on June 15, 2001 in Shanghai, China.

The Headquarters of SCO is located in Beijing. Official languages of SCO are Mandarin and Russian.

Objective SCO aims to form a multilateral association to ensure security and maintain stability across the Eurasian region, come together to counteract emerging challenges and threats, and enhance trade, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation.
Members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. India is currently the chair of SCO.
Observers Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus, and Mongolia. The process of granting IranMember State” status has already been started.
Dialogue partners Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt will also be granted the status soon.
Functions of SCO The primary function of SCO is to address security-related concerns, with special focus on regional terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism at the top.

Through Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), which was founded in 2004, the SCO members share crucial intelligence, knowledge, legal expertise as well as allow for extradition of terrorists.

SCO also has a form of military cooperation with Member States holding joint military exercises and ‘war games’.

SCO promotes cooperation in the fields of economics and culture, with focus on regional development for tackling security issues.

SCO has closely worked with various UN organizations to address various serious global issues.



Heads of State Council – It is the main body of SCO which decides its internal functioning and its interaction with other States & international organisations, and considers international issues.

Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs – It is responsible for issues related to day-to-day activities.

Heads of Government Council – It is responsible for approving the budget, considers and decides upon issues related to economic spheres of interaction within SCO.

Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) – It is responsible for combating terrorism, separatism and extremism.

  • It facilitates coordination between the SCO member states in the fight against terrorism, extremism and separatism.
  • Headquarters of RATS is located in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Miscellaneous The SCO states make up 40%of the global population, nearly 20% of the global GDP and 22% of the world’s land mass.

It is located at a strategic point between Asia and Europe. SCO aims to limit the American influence in the region.

It is being seen as a counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Decoding the Editorial

The article is discussing the broader geopolitical evolution of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that was jointly founded and nurtured by China and Russia over the last three decades.

  • Most Demanded Forum for Regional Cooperation: The SCO is experiencing a high level of demand for membership, which could be considered a measure of its success as a regional forum.
    • It has been observed that long lines of countries are seeking membership at the doors of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the SCO.
    • There has been growing interest of countries in Central Europe, India’s neighborhood, the Middle East, and the Subcontinent in joining or becoming observers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
    • Several countries are queuing up to join or become observers, including Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia.
    • Countries, such as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates from the Middle East, and Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka from the Subcontinent, have expressed interest in becoming dialogue partners of the SCO.
    • The countries are looking to engage more closely with each other on regional issues, including security, trade, and development.
    • This underscores the organization’s growing significance as a regional forum for cooperation and dialogue.
  • More Inclusive in Nature: It is argued that SCO is more inclusive than NATO, and that its growing attractiveness is indicative of the rise of non-Western security institutions.
    • Turkey, a long-standing member of NATO, has expressed interest in becoming part of the SCO, which is led by Russia and China, two countries that are currently at odds with the West.
    • This suggests a shift in global power dynamics and a growing recognition of the importance of non-Western institutions in addressing regional and global security challenges.
    • This will have potential geopolitical implications for the United States and its allies, which have traditionally dominated the global security landscape.

Challenges the Organization faces:

  • Internal Conflict: There are internal conflicts within the SCO.
    • For Instance, serious conflicts exist between India and China, Delhi and Islamabad, as well as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, deepening tensions between the Taliban-led Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    • Despite these conflicts, counter-terrorism has been the primary focus of the SCO for many years.
  • Differing Interests and Vision: While the SCO is becoming increasingly attractive to a growing number of regional states, the paradox is that its internal contradictions are casting a shadow over its strategic coherence.
    • This means that while the SCO has potential as a regional forum, its member states have competing interests and differing visions for the organization’s future.
    • These contradictions are creating challenges for the SCO’s strategic direction and coherence, which could undermine its effectiveness in addressing regional issues.
    • SCO faces a number of challenges in promoting peace in Eurasia, which happens to be one of its main objectives.
      • Russia’s involvement in the war in Ukraine is raising concerns about the ability to maintain its dominance in the region.
      • At the same time, China’s rise is increasing the prospects for Beijing to become the dominant force in inner Asia, potentially challenging Russia’s traditional influence in the region.
    • These factors create a complex and dynamic geopolitical environment in which the SCO operates, and they could have implications for the organization’s ability to achieve its objectives.

Beyond the Editorial

Importance of SCO for India:

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an important platform for India to pursue its policy of “multi-alignments.” India’s strategic and geographical position makes it important to have a strong presence in this region, which is closely linked to its security, economic, and geopolitical interests.

  • Counter-terrorism and Security: India faces threats from terrorism, radicalism, and instability that pose a significant danger to its sovereignty and integrity.
    • As a member of the SCO, India has access to intelligence and information from the Regional Anti-Terror Structure (RATS), based in Tashkent.
    • This access provides non-Pakistan-centred counter-terrorism information, which is vital to ensuring a stable Afghanistan.
  • Transportation and Connectivity: India is building the International North-South Transport Corridor to connect with South Asian states, which is vital for accessing the landlocked states of Central Asia, especially the doubly landlocked Uzbekistan. The SCO membership will facilitate better transportation and connectivity between India and the Central Asian region.
  • Energy and Natural Resources: Central Asia is rich in natural resources and minerals, and India’s major interest is in energy cooperation. However, India will need to address an assertive China’s Belt and Road Initiative to access these resources.
  • Pan-Asian Leadership: SCO membership provides India with an opportunity to become a major pan-Asian player, which is currently limited to the South Asian region. India can build stronger ties with countries in the region, enhancing trade, investment, policy, security, connectivity, capacity development, and the economy.

Thus, India’s participation in the SCO will facilitate better transportation and connectivity, energy cooperation, and the development of a leadership role in the pan-Asian region.

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