SCO Summit Marks Historic Expansion, Emphasizes Regional Unity and Collaboration

The overarching theme for the upcoming Summit is ‘Towards a SECURE SCO,’ with the term SECURE originating from Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s articulation during the 2018 SCO Summit

India took over the rotating Chairmanship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) during the Samarkand Summit on September 16, 2022. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi presided over the 23rd Summit of the SCO Council of Heads of State, scheduled for July 4, 2023, in a virtual format.

All SCO Member States, including China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, have received invitations to participate. Additionally, Observer States such as Iran, Belarus and Mongolia have been invited, along with Turkmenistan as a guest of the Chair, per SCO tradition. The Heads of the SCO Secretariat and SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) will also be in attendance.

Furthermore, leaders from six international and regional organizations—UN, ASEAN, CIS, CSTO, EAEU, and CICA—have been extended invitations to participate in the Summit.

THEME AND BACKGROUND

The overarching theme for the upcoming Summit is ‘Towards a SECURE SCO,’ with the term SECURE originating from Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s articulation during the 2018 SCO Summit. SECURE encompasses Security, Economy and Trade, Connectivity, Unity, Respect for Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity, and Environment. Throughout India’s Chairmanship of the SCO, these themes have been consistently emphasized.

Under India’s leadership, new pillars of cooperation have been established, focusing on Startups and Innovation, Traditional Medicine, Digital Inclusion, Youth Empowerment, and Shared Buddhist Heritage. This reflects India’s commitment to expanding collaborative efforts in diverse areas.

Significantly, efforts have been directed towards strengthening people-to-people ties, highlighting the historical and civilizational bonds among SCO nations. Varanasi has played a crucial role in hosting various socio-cultural events as part of its designation as the first-ever SCO Cultural and Tourist Capital for 2022-23.

India’s Chairmanship has been marked by robust activity, fostering mutually beneficial cooperation among member states. A total of 134 meetings and events, including 14 at the ministerial level, have been hosted by India. The commitment to playing a positive and constructive role within the organization remains unwavering, and India eagerly anticipates the successful conclusion of its Chairmanship with the upcoming SCO Summit.

PM MODI’S STANCE

In his address, Prime Minister Modi emphasized the imperative for decisive action against terrorism, urging the SCO to condemn nations that support such activities. He stressed the need for a collective stand against the menace of terrorism, underscoring the importance of global solidarity in addressing this shared concern.

In a reference to Pakistan, PM Modi pointed out the utilization of cross-border terrorism as a tool in certain countries’ policies, offering shelter to terrorists. He urged the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to openly criticize such nations, emphasizing the imperative for a unified stance without tolerating double standards on such critical matters.

Responding to PM Modi’s remarks, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif shifted the focus by alleging “minority persecution” in India. He cautioned against using terrorism for diplomatic gains and advocated for a holistic approach that avoids the demonization of religious minorities in the pursuit of domestic political agendas.

During the virtual summit, India voiced concerns over China’s approach to ‘connectivity’ and emphasized the importance of respecting the sovereignty of other nations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the critical role of strong connectivity in regional progress, citing its positive impact on mutual trade and trust. However, he underscored the necessity of adhering to the fundamental principles outlined in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) charter, particularly emphasizing the importance of respecting the sovereignty and regional integrity of member states.

The statement indirectly alluded to India’s reservations about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), led by China. While most current SCO member nations, except India and Russia, are part of the BRI, India has consistently objected to it. India’s objection is primarily rooted in the fact that a significant portion of the BRI project in Pakistan, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), runs through the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK). This territorial concern has been a key point of contention between India and China within the SCO framework.

Furthermore, PM Modi expressed deep concern for the welfare of the Afghan people, recognizing the challenges faced by the nation. He highlighted the significance of preventing the use of Afghan soil for destabilizing neighbouring countries, emphasizing the need for concerted efforts within the SCO framework to ensure regional stability and security.