Some Indian Perspectives on SCO Cooperation
It is a pleasure for me to represent the Indian delegation to the SCO Forum meeting today. I thank the Russian organizers for hosting this event. I have warm memories of leading the Indian delegation to the XIII Session of the Forum in Astana just over four years ago. India was then a very new member of the SCO, though it had been an Observer for over a decade and was quite familiar with the perspectives and procedures of the Organization.
Over the years, SCO has reflected a broad convergence of its member-states on issues ranging from multi-polarity of the world order to democratization of the global economic and financial architecture, sustainable development and climate change.
It is inevitable that in a group of 8 countries with different historical experiences and political environments, there will also be divergence of views and perspectives on some matters, including bilaterally between members. SCO has shown the maturity to put divergences aside and focus on shared interests for cooperation, which are significant. This Forum provides an excellent platform to explore areas of convergence and to evolve new ideas of cooperation.
The deterioration in relations between major world powers has important implications for multi-polarity in the global order and for peace, security and economic growth in our regions. SCO countries need multiple mechanisms for sharing views and perspectives on how best to address this problem.
All our countries have been impacted by terrorism and we talk a lot about it. The SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) mechanism – in which India is fully engaged – has been working harmoniously on many tracks. India believes RATS can make a broader contribution to security cooperation in our region.
A pressing issue that has engaged SCO’s attention is the situation in Afghanistan. We have a new and worrying situation in that country. The threats from extremism remain, an unrepresentative regime governs, the economic situation is dismal and the humanitarian conditions are desperate. SCO countries have participated in different ways and in different groupings to further their interests in Afghanistan. But our common interest lies in a peaceful Afghanistan, with an inclusive government, a stable economy, that does not pose a threat to any of its neighbours.
In the last few years, SCO has taken a number of initiatives in trade, connectivity and cultural engagement that have had a positive impact in furthering the Organization’s agenda, as well as bringing the SCO into the orbit of the youth, entrepreneurs and technical personnel in our countries.
There is enormous scope for developing infrastructure and connectivity in a manner that suits the economic interests and developmental priorities of member-countries, creates resources available to all, and respects their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Inclusivity, transparency and sustainability are imperative.
The SCO start-ups forum, launched in 2020, has developed very well and a further major expansion is planned in 2023, to broaden its scope and reach. The Young Scientists Conclave has also been developing nicely. The exhibition on our shared Buddhist heritage was a particularly successful initiative, with extraordinary inputs from every SCO country.
The distinguished members of the Indian delegation will have a number of further comments and suggestions on these and other aspects of SCO cooperation. I am sure we will examine all ideas in a forward-looking, collaborative atmosphere, with the objective of identifying concrete, implementable initiatives that our leaders can discuss at their summit in September.