GS Mains Model Question & Answer: Discuss the potential
benefits for India joining Sanghai Co-operation Organization as full time member
Q. Discuss the potential benefits for India joining
Sanghai Co-operation Organization as full time member. (12.5 Marks)
(General Studies Mains Paper II- International Relations : Bilateral,
regional and global groupings)
Model Answer :
The geographical and strategic space which the SCO straddles
is of critical importance for India. India’s security, geopolitical, strategic,
and economic interests are closely intertwined with developments in the region.
The ever present and expanding challenges of terrorism, radicalism, and
instability pose a grave threat to the sovereignty and integrity not only of
India, but also of countries in its broader neighborhood.
India’s principal benefit from joining the SCO will be
geopolitical. It will help bring India closer to China by supporting the only
multilateral security entity outside the United Nations that China has both
created, is a part of and refuses India entry into.
This may be the longer-term gain for India. China and India
are able to hold constructive conversations on a wide range of issues, from AIIB
membership to joint counter-terrorism exercises. The relationship is moving in a
positive, though still slightly tentative, direction. Perhaps the principal
exchange emerging from India’s accession to the SCO, will be a new push by China
to be admitted into SAARC.
The relationship with Central Asia, however, is one of
India’s untapped opportunities. Indian soft power already has considerable
influence in Central Asia, far more than China. Bollywood movies are much
enjoyed, compared with Chinese entertainment, for instance. But it is unclear
whether India has really found ways to profit beyond that. In Tajikistan, Indian
doctors and military support play an interesting bilateral role, but Indian
companies have not participated in the way they should have in the region.
The main problem for India is the physical impediment of
Afghanistan and Pakistan. This reality complicates relations, but India has
sought to overcome it by developing the Chabahar Port in Iran – an alternative
route for Indian products from Central Asia.
The bigger issue is political attention. The Central Asian
powers are sandwiched between China and Russia and find themselves increasingly
drawn into China’s economic thrall, in the face of a declining Russia to which
they are still bound by history and physical and linguistic infrastructure. They
constantly seek new partners and India offers an alternative they can appreciate
and work with.
Minerals and Energy
India can surely gain from access to Central Asia’s minerals
and energy, as also market access to Russia and ultimately Europe. Central Asia
is still deeply underdeveloped, offering an entree for Indian construction firms
and others. This will require formal support, something that Chinese leaders
have long recognized through their regular visits to the region. Indian leaders
seem not to have recognized that yet.
Dealing with Terrorism and Radicalism
On the security front, the SCO remains committed to fighting
the so-called “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism.
Here too there is much room for cooperation, as India has been a victim of
terrorist attacks for the last 30 years, during which it has lost several
thousand innocent children, women, and men.
SCO membership will go some way towards changing this, though
it will still need a concerted effort by New Delhi if India is to capitalize
effectively on the opportunity that Central Asia offers. Indian membership of
the SCO will undoubtedly be trumpeted as a major change in regional geopolitics;
it will only become a reality if India follows through with its offers to