MEETING WITH CHINESE & RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS ON SIDELINES OF SCO MEET
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- The Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will meet in Goa.
- This year, of the four observers, Iran and Belarus are set to be admitted as full members.
- The SCO is a multilateral grouping comprising eight member states of China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; four Observer States; and six “Dialogue Partners”.
- Afghanistan and Mongolia are the two other observers.
- The dialogue partners are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.
- India, which was admitted as a full member in 2017 along with Pakistan in the first-ever expansion of the group, holds the rotating presidency of the SCO this year.
- In this capacity has hosted several ministerial-level SCO meetings, including a tourism ministers’ meeting at Varanasi in March.
Mandate of the SCO Meet
- The main work of the foreign ministers’ meeting is to prepare for the upcoming meeting of the Heads of State Council, or the SCO summit, expected to be held in July.
- The foreign ministers will put their heads together to prepare a draft declaration to be adopted at the summit, formalise the admission of Iran and Belarus to the SCO, and discuss other regional and international issues.
- As a pointer, at the foreign ministers’ meeting hosted in July 2022 by last year’s chair Uzbekistan, the discussions centred on the Ukraine conflict, the resulting energy crisis and food shortages, Afghanistan, terrorism, trade and connectivity.
Central Asia and SCO
- Eurasia, which in the OECD definition includes 13 countries (Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan), is at the centre of this flux in the world order.
- Excluding Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and Turkmenistan, all others are either members, observers or dialogue partners of the SCO.
- Four of the five Central Asian republics are members of SCO.
- Russia has viewed these resource-rich republics, that were part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, as its strategic backyard.
- There is a growing Chinese footprint over the region, which has been driven both by strategic economic and security reasons.
- The power play in central Asia has its impact in the SCO. And this is where Russia needs India.
India and the SCO
- Moscow sees India’s presence in the SCO as a potential countervailing force to Chinese dominance of Central Asia.
- A membership of the SCO gave India a higher profile in Central Asia to which it does not have overland access.
- In post-US Afghanistan, it has helped India stay involved in the regional discussion on Taliban rule, from which it is otherwise excluded.
- The group has provided Delhi a forum to play up its proximity to Moscow.
- If the Quad is India’s diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific, the SCO represents its diplomacy in the Eurasian landmass.
- If the SCO is a bipolar China-Russia platform, it offers several multipolarities within as other members leverage their strengths to get the best deal for themselves.
- The challenge for India is to use both the SCO and the Quad to further its own interests instead of getting trapped in an either-or proposition.
Meeting with the Russian and Chinese Ministers
- The unresolved three-year-old military stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) remained the “focus” of India-China talks.
- This is the second time the two Ministers have held talks this year, as Chinese Foreign Minister had earlier attended the G-20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Delhi in March.
- The two Ministers had held a “trust-based exchange of views” on all issues, and on their cooperation as part of the India-Russia Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.
- However, no bilateral meeting was held or planned by officials between Mr. Jaishankar and Pakistan Foreign Minister.
Q) If the Quad is India’s diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific, the SCO represents its diplomacy in the Eurasian landmass. Comment. (150 words)