Common interests ease India’s accession to SCO

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/30 22:13:40

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) representatives have gathered in the Russian city of Sochi this week for the first high level meeting to include India as a full member of the bloc since India's accession to the SCO earlier this year, a move that has now given New Delhi a greater voice. Given its economic size, India has a significant role in regional affairs and is unlikely be sidelined within the SCO mechanism. China may need to find ways to properly cope with India's concerns and maintain the bloc's internal unity and collective decision-making.

Given the stubborn nature of the disputes between India and Pakistan, the entry of the two countries into the SCO will add complexity to the organization and even to the fragile geopolitical landscape of Asia. What's more, India's full membership now gives New Delhi a formal right to say no to any tacit agreements among the previous SCO members if it thinks the cooperation is not in line with India's interests. Take China's Belt and Road (B&R) initiative for example: While most SCO members are highly appreciative of the initiative and look forward to aligning their own development with it, India remains an exception.

The SCO is probably not a suitable platform to resolve bilateral disputes through multilateral consultation, but India may think that it is. It is understandable that India may use the SCO to express its concerns and maximize its interests. But whatever its attitude, India's presence in the club will soon be clearly felt. All member states have an equal voice in the SCO. With a booming economy and big political ambitions, India's presence cannot be overlooked, even though it is just a newcomer to the organization.

The ongoing meeting at Sochi marks the debut of India as a full member and could therefore serve as a touchstone to test previous members' attitude toward the newcomer. China is unlikely to side with either India or Pakistan within the SCO mechanism. A similar scenario may be echoed by the other members. It is easy for SCO member states to be well aware of India's concerns but it will not be easy to figure out how to properly cope with them.

Expanding common interests may be the lifeblood of maintaining the bloc's internal unity during this period. Like the previous SCO members, India's primary strategy is to promote economic and social development. The administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under increasing political pressure in India due to the cooling of the country's economy amid recent controversial reforms. Some observers believe that the need to strengthen economic cooperation with SCO members was a major consideration behind India's decision to apply for membership in the group, but the nation's cooling economy makes this cooperation a more urgent issue for the newcomer.

Founded in 2001, the SCO is viewed by observers as a predominantly political and security grouping headquartered in Beijing, although the organization has stepped up efforts to promote economic cooperation and trade among members. Giving more priority to economic cooperation can help newcomers such as India find a sense of belonging, upholding the club's internal unity.  

While the global economy has become burdened by the new wave of protectionism, some SCO members have begun to grumble about free trade agreements. In this context, pushing forward facilitation of investment is expected to play an important part in the upcoming cooperation among SCO members.

China is witnessing a boom in outbound investment, with its direct investment into India in 2016 six times higher than the year before. Neither China nor India can ignore the challenges faced by the SCO as the club admits new members, but efforts to promote investment will be an effective way to enhance economic complementarity, and could also enhance political trust between the two countries eventually.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


blog comments powered by Disqus