Tokyo [Japan], May 19 (ANI): India assumed the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Chairship for 2023 and it already held meetings at the level of Directors of the National Security Agency, Defense Ministers, and Foreign Ministers.
An article from a magazine, 'Wedge' dated May 16, 2023, written by Japanese scholar Satoru Nagao, who works with the Sasakawa Peace Foundation provides a perspective as to why India is focusing on its active participation in SCO.
The article has noted the current pattern of partnerships within SCO. The writer has appreciated India's diplomatic approach towards SCO.
The SCO provides a platform for India to enhance economic cooperation with Central Asian countries, which have vast reserves of natural resources. India is seeking to increase its trade and investment ties with the SCO countries to diversify its economic partnerships.
The G7 Summit scheduled to be held in Hiroshima from May 19 to 21, would be followed by the QUAD Summit (May 24), a four-country framework which includes- the US, Japan, Australia and India, (earlier QUAD Summit was planned to be held in Sydney, however now the meeting will be held in Hiroshima itself).
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will also have the opportunity to hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 Summit (India).
Since Prime Minister Kishida visited India in March this year, he has been meeting PM Modi quite often and this has attracted the attention of experts on Japan-India relations.
However, there is one more aspect that has not received much focus in Japan. India is also chairing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) this year, said Satoru.
India will host the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in New Delhi On July 3-4. The agenda for the Summit is anticipated to centre on counter-terror, Afghan stability, and inclusive connectivity efforts including Chabahar PortINSTC, aside from India's extensive outreach to Eurasia.
India is deepening cooperation with Japan and the US in areas such as QUAD and the Indo-Pacific. Then why is it a member of the SCO? What kind of national interest lies there for India? asked Satoru.
As per his article in Wedge, the SCO is a countermeasure against Pakistan. For India, the SCO holds the potential to serve the purpose in terms of security. For India, dealing with China and Pakistan is a security challenge. Pakistan, in particular, sends Islamic extremists to India, said Satoru.
Pakistan lost the Indo-Pakistani War in 1971 and was made aware of the huge power difference with India. Since then, as a countermeasure against India, along with the development of nuclear weapons, the strategy adopted by Pakistan has been to support Islamic extremists, who carry out terrorist activities against India, more actively than ever before. The so-called 'Thousand Wounds Strategy' states that even a strong country would turn weak if it inflicted a thousand small wounds through terrorism.
In the 1980s, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and the US, via Pakistan, supported the guerrillas against the Soviet Union. During this process, Pakistan developed the know-how to support terrorists.
Volunteer soldiers ready to fight against the Soviet Union began to gather from all over the world, including Islamic extremists as well. One amongst them was Osama bin Laden who later masterminded the 9/11 attacks.
By establishing connections with such Islamic extremists, Pakistan deepened its confidence in supporting terrorism. Then, after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, Pakistan began to think of a strategy of sending allied Islamic extremists to India.
Thus, Pakistan-backed Islamist extremist terrorism plagued India. As a countermeasure against terrorism, information regarding Islamic extremists possessed by Russia and Central Asian countries became important for India, said Satoru.
Founded in 2001, the SCO consists of China, Russia and Central Asian countries. It is an apt framework for sharing information about Islamic extremists. However, there was a problem. There was a possibility of Pakistan joining the group.
China had supported Pakistan for many years and now Pakistan was seeking its entry in SCO.
What would have happened, had India not joined and only Pakistan had joined SCO? Pakistan justifies Islamic extremists group, who carry out terrorism against India, by referring to them as 'freedom fighters'. Pakistan would have tried to persuade the participant countries not to cooperate with India, said the article.
For India, this was unacceptable. It was a must for India also to join the SCO and refute Pakistan's claims. Hence, in 2015, India and Pakistan both joined the SCO at the same time.
From the beginning, SCO has been a useful forum for countering Pakistan and Islamic extremists. India, which is chairing SCO this year, did not allow high-ranking Pakistani government officials to enter India for the National Security Director-General level and Defense Minister-level talks. They were allowed to participate only through online mode.
During the Foreign Minister level talks, the Pakistani foreign minister was allowed to enter India for the talks, but he did not hold bilateral talks with his Indian counterpart. India's anger towards Pakistan was being reflected.
Moreover, in Central Asia, developments that are worrying for India continue. In particular, what is more, worrisome now is the move by China-Pakistan-Taliban to cooperate through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
China, in cooperation with Pakistan, intends to proceed with infrastructure development projects, under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, under the BRI.
China further intends to acquire Afghanistan's mineral resources and develop trade routes. As a result, China's stance of defending the Taliban along with Pakistan has turned out to be conspicuous, reported the Wedge article.
For example, while the Taliban have pursued a policy of oppression against women unlike any other country, China and Pakistan are urging the rest of the world not to cut aid to Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.
On the other hand, while India does not recognise the Taliban regime, it has reopened the Indian embassy in Afghanistan. However, they are training female Special Forces personnel with the intention of sending female armed forces to the security unit there. India is directly opposed to the Taliban's repressive policies against women.
In fact, India was also planning to develop a trade route connecting India and Central Asia until the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and gradual establishment of Taliban regime. India built the Iranian port of Chabahar and developed a trade route from India to Iran by sea, bypassing Pakistan, and from there to Afghanistan and Turkmenistan by land.
That would allow India to engage in trade routes through Central Asia and make economic gains, and cooperate with former Afghan government to encircle Pakistan. Having said that, SCO was useful in negotiating with these countries, said Satoru.
However, that became difficult with the rise of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Reason being that the Taliban regime has close ties with Pakistan and has fought with India.
India's relation with Iran is also not in smooth phase and has got complicated following India's close proximity with US. Hence, for India the opportunity to proceed with the negotiation, using the SCO framework, for building this route, was lost.
If viewed through this aspect, the SCO is not only a place for India to cooperate, but also a place to gather information, monitor and obstruct China-Pakistan movements. That's where its real worth for India lies, said Satoru.
India in the midst of a framework, which is turning into a confusing mystery. At first glance, the SCO looks like a framework promoting cooperation among anti-US countries. It has come up with a certain degree of success with regard to the China-Russia-Central Asia agreement.
However, within it also exists simmering elements like India and China-Pakistan. Moreover, now, more such simmering elements have also started cropping up successively.
In 2021, when Iran became an official member, Saudi Arabia joined as a Dialogue Partner. Azerbaijan and Armenia, both having territorial disputes, are also Dialogue Partners. Besides these, other countries also joined one after another, creating a strange framework, as in how do their ideas and views match and find a conclusion.
Judging from the situation, it may be concluded that a consensus can be reached only among China, Russia, and Central Asia, while it would be better if the other countries attempt to arrive at an agreement on their relationship on a case-by-case basis.
Therefore, the value of SCO to China-Russia-Central Asian countries and its value to India are considered to be completely different. For India, the SCO is useful because it can curb Pakistan's influence, get hold of information on Islamic extremists, and sabotage China-Pakistan cooperation, added Satoru.
It can be said that it reflects the skilful and prudent diplomatic measures adopted by India in keeping with the clear objective of persistently pursuing its own national interest. (ANI)