SCO membership precursor to Russia-India-China alliance

Heads of government of Russia, India and China. With New Delhi on board, the SCO would become a global organization. Source: Photoshot

Heads of government of Russia, India and China. With New Delhi on board, the SCO would become a global organization. Source: Photoshot

India and Pakistan’s participation in the SCO may contribute to the normalization of relations between them, and at the same time it is a signal that the organisation will support the normalisation of Pakistan-India relations.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will soon admit two more major Asian countries, with Moscow and Beijing supporting the requests of India and Pakistan. The possible accession of Iran was also discussed earlier. Strategic analysts note that the SCO is becoming increasingly significant player in the global arena.

On Wednesday, October 2 after negotiations with the Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow supports India's bid for membership in the organization and believes that the SCO “will benefit from the membership of countries such as India and Pakistan.” According to Lavrov, decisions will be made in the near future on other pending applications. Although Beijing has not yet issued an official statement, there is no doubt that this issue was approved by both China and Russia.

“India has wanted join the organization almost since its inception, and it has held observer status,” noted Tatyana Shaumyan, the head of the Centre for Indian Studies at the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies. “But as soon as full-fledged membership was brought up for India, Pakistan was also immediately engaged. In this situation, Russia was ready to support India's bid for membership and China more likely expressed interest in Pakistan. In the end, it was decided to accept both countries.”

An obstacle to full membership for India and Pakistan was that under the charter, member states should not have unresolved conflicts among themselves, and Pakistan and India been unable to resolve the Kashmir issue for decades. It was this issue that was discussed at the first meeting of the new Pakistani prime minister with his Indian counterpart recently in New York.

“Pakistan and India, as members of the same organisation, will yield to the powerful influence of external peace-loving forces on their relationship,” says Andrei Volodin, senior researcher at the Centre for Eurasian Studies, Institute of Contemporary International Studies of theDiplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry. “Moreover, I would not overemphasize the Pakistani-Indian conflict. The Kashmir dispute hasexisted since the partitioning of Hindustan in 1947, and now Pakistan is interested in developing its industry and developing trade and economic relations with India,” Volodin added. “India is interested in unity and the territorial integrity of Pakistan.”

India and Pakistan’s participation in the SCO will contribute to the normalization of relations between them, and at the same time it is a signal that the organisation will support the normalisation of Pakistan-India relations, said Shaumyan. Earlier in the 60’s, the USSR acted as the arbiter between the two countries, but now the SCO can take on this function.

The journey of India and Pakistan to the SCO was rather long, but Russia and China are both interested in seeing that, after the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan territories will be, if not peaceful, then, at least, will develop predictably, says Volodin. And this played a crucial role in admitting Pakistan and India to the SCO.

For Russia, admitting India to the SCO was a very positive step, but now the question of mending Russian-Pakistani relations will certainly come up says Shaumyan, “Russia is now trying to build a relationship with Pakistan, including on the basis of the geo-political situation of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2014. It is possible that we get can connect with them due to our converging interests because Pakistan is hardly interested in seeing the Taliban gain strength.”

After the upcoming expansion of the SCO, it will go from being a regional organization originally created primarily to promote cooperation in Central Asia, to being a global force.  “On the one hand, this is a positive thing. The SCO is expanding, it now covers almost half of the world's population,” noted Konstantin Sivkov, the first vice-president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems.

But at the same time, according to Sivkov, in these circumstances, the SCO will become a looser, less cohesive organization:  “There is a conflict between India and Pakistan; there is an unresolved dispute between India and China. If it was possible earlier that the SCO could be turned into a political union, now this could be a problem. However, Russia has good relations with all three countries, we can act as sort of a regulator of relations in this triangle,” said Sivkov.

Russia is an Asian country, the security of Asia is vital for us, considers Shaumyan. India and China are our strategic partners, as well as important military partners. It is in the interest of Russia to make sure that the SCO can become a platform for these three major powers, Russia, China and India, to come together and establish an alliance.

"Russia, India and China are the largest continental countries of Eurasia and Eurasia is the main, predominant continent,” commented Volodin. “Initiative in world politics is objectively moving from the great naval powers, such as Britain and the United States, to the continental countries.”

First published in Russian in Vzglyad newspaper.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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