India SCO Summit 2023: India recently hosted the 23rd Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Heads of State, showcasing its commitment to regional cooperation and addressing key challenges. The SCO, a forum that brings together Central Asian countries, has gained significance since India’s inclusion in 2017. In a discussion on the program Spotlight, journalist KV Prasad and former diplomat Skand Ranjan Tayal shed light on the highlights and significance of the summit.
Ambassador Tayal provided insights into the conceptualization of the SCO and its relevance in the contemporary context. He emphasized the organization’s primary objective of fostering peace and progress in the Central Asian region, which is intricately linked to South Asia, particularly India. Tayal mentioned that under India’s chairmanship, the focus was on making the entire region “SECURE” through security, economic growth, connectivity, unity, respect for sovereignty, and environmental preservation.
Tayal acknowledging the concerns about the territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations within the SCO, particularly in relation to China’s expansionist tendencies said that while bilateral issues are not discussed within the SCO format, principles can be reiterated. He highlighted India’s concerns about China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which passes through illegally occupied parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Although other members of the SCO are participants in this initiative, the declaration failed to mention India’s name while including other countries, raising questions about support from SCO members.
Terrorism was another critical topic discussed during the summit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized the importance of collective action against terrorism, particularly cross-border terrorism. Tayal highlighted the double standards of certain countries, referring to China’s protection of known Pakistani terrorists in international forums. He also stressed the issue of terror financing, with funds flowing through Pakistan from international sources.
The discussion also touched upon the role of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent. Tayal acknowledged that while RATS has been functioning for over 15 years, its effectiveness in fighting terrorism needs improvement. He suggested that RATS should also focus on countering radicalization, a concern faced by Central Asian countries.
Furthermore, India focused on people-to-people connections through various programs for youth, scientists, authors, scholars, and community development. Efforts were made to promote socio-cultural aspects, including millets, films, culture, tourism, and the shared Buddhist heritage.
India’s hosting of the SCO Summit demonstrated its commitment to regional cooperation, addressing challenges such as terrorism and promoting shared interests. Despite certain issues and limitations, the summit served as a platform to foster dialogue and strengthen ties among member nations, paving the way for a more secure and prosperous future in the region.