Monday, June 15, 2009

India and SCO(Shanghai Cooperation Organisation)

The news right now is PM MMS(Manmohan Singh) has gone to Yekaterinburg to participate in SCO and BRICS meet. This is the first time India is participating at PM level in SCO and it is really interesting to see what policy and attitude India should have towards SCO.
Right now SCO is a group with two big brother Russia and China. Russia wants a firm control over SCO because this organization concerns Central Asia which is in Russia's sphere of influence. Naturally Russia is trying to project itself and reduce the influence of USA in Central Asia through SCO. The brief conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 might have firmed the views in Moscow that USA still thinks of encircling Russia and include CIS states into its sphere of influence.
So Russia is trying to transform SCO into a military cooperation and understanding in addition to present goals of SCO.

China on the other hand is not comfortable with the military cooperation part. Some of the possible reasons might be that then SCO will visibly become anti US or anti-NATO. and maybe China's influence on SCO would also decrease in that case.

China is keen to use SCO as a channel to tap the energy resources of Central Asia without having a transport route passing through Russia. Naturally Russia will find this as a decrease in its influence on Central Asia.

Now India comes into picture. India definitely has eye on the events of Central Asia and the airbase at Ayni in Tajikistan is not just coincidence. Till now India has shied away from SCO and one reason was that an observer status in SCO is not in line with India's status. If India were to be active then it should be give the position and power that it deserves. Now Russia has tried to have India roped in SCO , by organizing BRICS and SCO at the same time.

There might be many reasons why Russia is interested in India being active and one possible reasons is that it will strengthen Russia own position.
If India tries to get involved in SCO it might find some concessions from Russia in CIS states and it might straighten India's security as well as energy security. India is also trying to have Afghanistan become active in SCO and this way Afghanistan can develop stronger ties with its Central Asian neighbour and become less dependent on Pakistan. Russia does not like Pakistan involvement(ie Taliban and Al Qaida) in Afghanistan so India does not have to worry about that.

I believe that India's action of waiting till the right time to actively participate in SCO has been a right move. Now India will get the high tables and a voice that will be heard.

India can surely counter China by working with Russia in this organization.
Definitely India will not be pleasing USA by becoming involved in SCO. Probably US will try ti offer some incentive to India to keep away from SCO, maybe a bit more pressure on Pakistan to address India's long standing demands.

It would be interesting to see how India associates itself with central Asian countries and how much leverage it can get out of SCO.

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