Discussion on Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Achievements and Prospects
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Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), organized a Round Table Discussion on “Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Achievements and Prospects” on September 5, 2022. Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director VIF, delivered the welcome remarks, followed by remarks of Amb DB Venkatesh Varma, Distinguished Fellow VIF. The other participants of the discussion included Amb D. P. Srivastava, Amb Ashok Kantha, Lt. Gen Ravi Sawhney. Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar, Amb. Skand R. Tayal, Amb. PS Raghavan and Amb TCA Raghavan.

India shares a close historical and cultural relationship with Central Asia, which it maintained until India's partition and creation of Pakistan in 1947. Conflicts between New Delhi and Islamabad have seriously hampered connectivity between India and Central Asia. As a result, one of India's key motives for joining the SCO was to reconnect with Eurasian nations through this multi-alignment regional organisation. Cooperation on Afghanistan is another important component of India's SCO agenda. Because of Afghanistan's volatile status, the region has been plagued by a myriad of problems, including terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking, and transnational crime. SCO provides a forum for combating these challenges jointly and offering some solutions.

Since becoming a permanent member of this regional organisation in 2017, India has advanced many important ideas in SCO Summits. One of those initiatives that were implemented was India's suggestion to establish a SCO Startup Forum. The First SCO Startup Forum had 1 plenary session and 6 simultaneous activity zones wherein 11 different activities were held within 3.5 hours in three languages- English, Mandarin, and Russian. The Forum also received global participation- 2,600+ observers from 60 countries and 6 continents registered for the SCO Startup Forum. On 27-28 October 2021, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade of the Government of India, jointly with the SCO Secretariat hosted the Second SCO Startup Forum, held via video-conference.

In his statement at the 21st SCO Summit, Prime Minister Modi used the term SECURE, which stands for security for citizens, economic growth, regional connectivity, unity, respect for sovereignty and integrity, and environmental protection. In the rapidly changing geopolitical situation of the Eurasian region, PM Modi's initiatives should be the focus of New Delhi's priorities when India assumes the next SCO Chairmanship in 2022-23.

The discussion underlined that New Delhi must adopt a proactive approach toward its Asian neighbours, particularly Central Asia and Russia. India-Russia cooperation in Central Asia has a lot of potential. During India's presidency of the SCO, New Delhi should prioritise rebooting its Central Asia strategy. In order to improve commerce and trade with the Eurasian region, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Eurasian Economic Union could be considered as soon as possible. As part of India's Central Asian policy, FTAs with specific countries in the region should also be prioritised.

The participants of the discussion also noted that digital cooperation offers a lot of promise for India-Central Asia relations. Traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) should also be encouraged as part of India’s SCO policy. On connectivity, it was stressed that INSTC and Chabahar should be promoted to increase trade with the region. In this context, a few issues, such as Indian banks' unwillingness to work in Chabahar port, must be addressed soon. Iran has joined SCO as a full member. This is going to have a significant impact on this organization. Iran's role as a link between India and Central Asia cannot be overstated. As a result, increasing a multifaceted cooperation between India and Iran should be an important component of India's Central Asian strategy.

Event Date 
September 5, 2022

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