Is India Trying to Dismantle the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation?

The realist school of thought in International relations’ consider the states to be in perpetual struggle to achieve their national interests and thus maximize their security. While there is nothing wrong in this, the problems arises when the struggle to achieve these interests is done aggressively at others’ expense.

Founded in June 2001, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) initially had China, Russia and the Central Asian Republics (CARs), except for Turkmenistan as its core members. The group’s main aim was cooperating with each other to counter non-traditional security challenges, particularly that of terrorism, extremism and separatism.

SCO is China’s first ever multilateral organisation which it created for power projection in order to demonstrate to the world that it has the capability to lead an international organisation, portray itself to be a reliable member of the international community, and to improve regional cohesion and cooperation.

But that is not how the US and its regional proxy India see things. From their perspective, international affairs are a zero-sum game and there are only absolute gains.For them (US and India), SCO is considered as the Sino-Russo alternative to the US created international institutions and the initiation of a brand new mechanisms which would ultimately give decrease US’ hold and relevance. The US has already voiced its apprehensions about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched by China and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

…dubious objectives, over-ambition, strong dislike for Pakistan and intense rivalry with China has compelled India to pull in a different direction and try its level best to render the organisation impotent

The US is completely aware of the potential of SCO and all the benefits that its member countries might reap if it continues to function efficiently. China, with the help of Russia was able to induct its ‘all-weather friend’ Pakistan and its regional rival India into the SCO. This move helped improve the organisation’s profile internationally besides making it the largest regional organisation geographically (as it covers over 60% of the entire Eurasian landmass) and demographically (approximately half of the world’s population). This puts the collective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) the SCO covers at approximately 25% of the entire global GDP.

The SCO is a dispute-free organisation almost, if it were not for the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) dispute that has been lingering on for the past seventy years. If the J&K dispute is resolved peacefully, SCO will become an organisation covering a dispute free region with unlimited potential. But, dubious objectives, over-ambition, strong dislike for Pakistan and intense rivalry with China has compelled India to pull in a different direction and try its level best to render the organisation impotent, exactly the way it contributed in the demise of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). SAARC was another regional organisation which would have been instrumental in resolving disputes within South Asia and helped in regional integration but due to the arrogance and selfishness of the Indian state, the organisation bit the dust before it could take off.

Although India is a full-member of the SCO but it is not there to play friendly, in fact it is there to create trouble for its own perverted reasons and also on the behest of the United States. The US simply cannot see the SCO flourish as the success of this organisation will lead to better regional integration, reduction of US influence in the continent and substantially aid in manifesting the idea of the Eurasian region. While India on the other hand joined the SCO in order to gain access to the numerous resources and connectivity projects that the organisation tends to offer, rather than achieving collective regional progress and development.

India is deliberately escalating tensions and resorting to violence in the region while simultaneously violating human rights and showing total disregard for international law. It is committing gruesome atrocities against innocent people of J&K, while the entire international community watches silently.

As mentioned earlier, India views things as a zero-sum game and it is out there to achieve absolute gains rather than developing symbiotic relationships within the region. It does not share the same goals, values and vision for the region as rest of the countries in the Eurasian landmass. With its foreign policy enshrined in Chanakyan principles, India considers itself to be a country that is “above the region”. With the open US support which is trying to build India to use it as a tool to pursue its China-containment policy, the latter has grown arrogant and displaying sheer disloyalty to the region, knowingly or unknowingly.

India’s aggressive attitude and negative policy orientation towards other regional countries is a manifestation of the point that India does not have any plans for supporting the idea of the Eurasian region or any kind of regional integration for that matter as it is not in consonance with its interests or its plans for the region. India is deliberately escalating tensions and resorting to violence in the region while simultaneously violating human rights and showing total disregard for international law. It is committing gruesome atrocities against innocent people of J&K, while the entire international community watches silently.

In the Asia-Pacific region at the moment, India is the biggest propagator of the Western, especially the US interests. India is consciously escalating tensions in the region and purposely refusing to settle disputes with its neighbours either through negotiations or third-party mediation. This is severely damaging the international credibility of the SCO. China and Russia should be cognizant of this in order to protect the SCO from becoming another SAARC. By openly opposing the BRI at the last SCO summit in June 2019, India openly challenged the Chinese initiative for regional cooperation and also unveiled its true intensions regarding regional integration.

This ploy by India also raised many questions regionally and internationally about the unity within the SCO and about the organisation’s efficacy and importance.

Tensions between Pakistan and India, two nuclear armed neighbours are rising again on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. India has revoked the J&K state’s special status by abrogating Article 370 of its constitution. Since August 05, 2019, the Indian occupying forces have wreaked havoc on the innocent people of Kashmir through extra-judicial killings, abductions, rape and torture.

It is about time that major powers like China and Russia, as well as other SCO member states decide to take a strong stand for J&K against blatant Indian atrocities and belligerence. Such a stand should be made as individual states and as members of the SCO as well. SCO is one of the best platforms which can be utilized amicably to find a political and peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute according to the aspirations of the people of J&K.

All member countries should strive towards the peaceful resolution of the only pending dispute between anySCO member states (J&K dispute) and stop India from committing gross human rights violations and making the entire region chaotic. The SCO as a group or institution should abandon its previous policy option of issuing vague statements to avoid fulfilling its primary motivation and core responsibilities. SCO is a mature organisation now with an institutional memory of nineteen years. Working for the resolution of the J&K dispute and managing to control India’s negative discourse regarding regional integration will be the biggest challenge for SCO’s significance. If its members, especially China and Russia want to project the organisation as an efficient international organisation, they will need to be more proactive rather than giving out mere statements.

The SCO should meet its challenges head on. It needs to clarify its position on contemporary and potential future conflicts. It should make substantial attempts to ease tensions between Pakistan and India and play a constructive role in improving their bilateral relationship. Currently India is violating the very rules of SCO which were mentioned in the beginning of this article. It is fuelling extremism in the region and spreading state-sponsored terrorism in J&K. The SCO has to make changes to its operability. Fulfilling core responsibilities, resolving conflicts, and containment of countries like India who are acting as a rogue elements are the only way the organisation will earn credibility in the international arena and save itself from imploding.

About the Author: Mr. Muhammad Taimur Fahad Khan is a freelance journalist. He holds an M. Phil Degree in International Relations from  National Defence University, Islamabad. He wrote many research articles, Policy Briefs, Issue Briefs, Book Reviews and Monographs on topics related to International Relations. He is currently serving as Research and Media Officer at Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Reader’s Review.

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