Contradictions mar SCO meet - Hindustan Times
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Contradictions mar SCO meet

ByHT Editorial
Jul 05, 2023 10:17 PM IST

Agreement on Afghanistan aside, the virtual meeting showed the growing rift in the group

The virtual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) hosted by India this week became more of an exercise in managing contradictions inherent within the two-decade-old Eurasian bloc created by China and Russia than achieving progress on any substantive issue. While India has put in place the building blocks to forge closer economic and security relations with a number of Central Asian states, New Delhi’s relations with two key SCO members — China and Pakistan — continue to be strained. While there is broad consensus within the grouping on the need to tackle terrorism, India has struggled to get SCO’s endorsement for action against Pakistan-based terror groups that continue to pose a major threat to the country, especially when China has continued to shield Islamabad at international fora such as the UN.

New Delhi’s relations with two key SCO members — China and Pakistan — continue to be strained.(ANI photo) PREMIUM
New Delhi’s relations with two key SCO members — China and Pakistan — continue to be strained.(ANI photo)

It was thus not surprising to see these contradictions come to the fore in the course of the summit, with India sticking to its position of not endorsing China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the joint declaration. India has anyway opposed BRI on the grounds that a key section of China’s flagship connectivity project passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). India also did not sign on for the SCO Economic Development Strategy 2030, which was adopted by some member-States, as the document was largely in line with China’s policies. Since the SCO charter doesn’t allow the raising of bilateral issues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took no names while speaking on terrorism in his opening address, but there was little doubt he was referring to China and Pakistan when he talked about double standards in fighting the menace and countries using terror as an instrument of policy. Perhaps the only area where there was consensus was the situation in Afghanistan, with clear calls for the formation of an inclusive government and to prevent the use of Afghan soil to spread extremism.

India had sought membership of SCO as part of diplomatic efforts to strike a balance between power centres amid its growing engagements with the West. Membership of SCO was also seen as another way to deepen links with this strategic region. But the contradictions of the emerging geopolitical order threaten to upend these calculations. Even as New Delhi wants to push for a multipolar Asia, it remains to be seen if SCO goes the same way as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation hamstrung because of internal conflicts.

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