Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, organised a webinar on “India-SCO Engagement: The Next Steps” on 2 September 2020. India joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in 2017 as full member. The next SCO Heads of Government Meeting (HoGM) will be chaired by India later this year. The webinar was organised in the run up to the SCO HoG Meeting. The webinar had two components: Inaugural Session and Technical Sessions. Ambassador Vladimir Norov, Secretary General, SCO, addressed the Inaugural Session from Beijing while academics, diplomats, representatives of business organisations attended the Technical Sessions. They joined from various parts of India and Indian Missions in SCO Member Countries.
2. Ambassador T.C.A. Raghavan, DG, ICWA, chaired the Inaugural Session. Special Remarks were made by Ambassador Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West), Ministry External Affairs, and the Opening Address was made by Ambassador Vladimir Norov, Secretary General, SCO, Beijing, China. It was stated that SCO has emerged as a key regional organization in the Eurasian space in past two decades of its existence. India’s accession to the SCO gave a new dynamic and ability to SCO. SCO provides a springboard for India to reconnect with its extended neighborhood. India’s cultural heritage is deeply influenced by countries in Eurasia. SCO had the potential of becoming a major face of global economic development with India’s growing economic stature. India’s efforts to extend all cooperation to the SCO were acknowledged and appreciated.
3. The first technical session ‘SCO in Changing Global, Regional Dynamics’ was chaired by Ambassador P.S. Raghavan, Chairman, National Security Advisory Board and former Ambassador of India to Russia. The panellists were: Prof. P. Stobdan, President, Ladakh International Centre, Leh; Prof. Nirmala Joshi, Former Professor, SIS, JNU, New Delhi; and currently Director, India-Central Asia Foundation, New Delhi, and Mr. Nandan Unnikrishnan, Distinguished Fellow, ORF, New Delhi. It was stated that the global order is in a state of ferment; the Covid-19 pandemic had transformed a pre-existing geopolitical flux into a geopolitical churn with US-China, US-Russia and also India-China relations as key vectors. This is likely to have an impact on the direction that SCO takes in the future which was founded on the objectives of peace, security and good-neighbourliness. SCO is significant for India’s continental interests.
4. The second technical session ‘India and SCO’ was chaired by Ambassador Gautam Bambawale, Former Ambassador of India to Bhutan, Pakistan and China; and currently Distinguished Professor, Symbiosis International University, Pune. The panellists were: Prof. Sanjay Kumar Pandey, SIS, JNU, New Delhi; Prof. R. G. Gidadhubli, Former Professor, Centre for Central Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai, and Dr. Athar Zafar, Research Fellow, ICWA. It was stated that SCO provided a valued platform to India to strengthen its relations with the Central Asian countries; and that India should develop a strategy towards this end. Also, enhanced focus should be given to the non-traditional security agenda for cooperation; in the field of energy, environment, education and health care. In multilateral fora, India should focus on soft issues of culture, connectivity and economic development.
5. The final session ‘Observations’ was moderated by Ambassador TCA Raghavan DG, ICWA. Observations were made by Heads/representatives of Indian Missions in SCO Member Countries viz., Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan as well as Turkmenistan as special invitee. Serving diplomats provided their valuable inputs to the consultations on the next steps in India-SCO engagement and shared perspectives on the priorities of the host countries viz-a-viz SCO.