On July 4, the 22nd summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) since its founding in 2001 took place in New Delhi via video conference. Following is a list of the participating countries in the order that their heads of state signed the final “Declaration,” which was adopted at the start of the event: India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan. They were joined by Iran, which was one of the main results of this summit.
In the author’s opinion, its significance is rather conditioned by the context of the current stage of the “Big World Game” and mainly by the increasingly clearly defined threat of the formation of lines of division in the Indo-Pacific region, which may spread to the entire human race (with multiple obvious negative consequences for the latter).
In terms of its original goals and the composition of participants, the SCO could be considered a “truncated version” of another platform, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) established in the early 1990s. Even though the ARF seems to be the best place to put policies in place to “sanitize” the threats of a regional division, the simultaneous existence of two major geopolitical competitors, the United States and China, reduces the ARF’s effectiveness.
In this regard, it seems natural that the original plan was to form a new interstate platform in the Indo-Pacific region in the form of the SCO by “cutting off” an “extra-regional” player (the US) from it. Washington would deal with all of the region’s concerns in a “cozy, domestic, comfortable” setting.
But the fact is that the removal of the world’s leading power from the list of participants in the new platform does not mean that it will not be de facto present in almost all regional problems. And in such a way as it sees fit.
Furthermore, (and most important), the majority of these issues are purely “local” in nature. One of the most serious issues was brought to the SCO by India and Pakistan, which joined the organization in 2017. This is primarily the Kashmir problem (no less dangerous than the Taiwan problem), which is more or less regularly commented on in the NEO.
Apparently, the founders of this organization, i.e. China and Russia, were guided by two considerations when making a positive decision on the request of these two countries to join the SCO. First, by the very need to resolve this problem. Without this, it would be challenging to develop any substantial, regional-scale projects. Second, it was probably anticipated that the mere presence of two rivals in the same organization would prompt them to work together to “cure” this disease that causes tremendous suffering for everyone.
Perhaps this would have been the case if, in the last ten years, potentially one of the main problems on the global game table had not become more and more pronounced due to the various difficulties in relations between the two Asian giants (and, again, SCO members), China and India. There are different opinions on the nature of these difficulties, which are also presented on international expert platforms. But all that matters today is that they exist, and, for example, certain “incidents” in border zones are rather an outward manifestation of said difficulties than their true cause.
India, for example, has a negative attitude toward the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a huge transport and infrastructure project that has been underway since 2016 and, among other things, is strategically important for China, since it makes it possible to solve the Malacca Dilemma, i.e., to secure China’s safe land access to the Indian Ocean in general and the Persian Gulf area in particular.
But CPEC passes through a part of the former principality of Kashmir that India considers “illegally occupied by Pakistan.” New Delhi has therefore refused to respond positively to repeated appeals from Islamabad and Beijing to become part of its implementation. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of CPEC, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on July 6 once again urged India to benefit from rather than hinder the project.
It should be pointed out, however, that Pakistan also refers to the part of former Kashmir, which is now part of India, in the same way (i.e. in the vice versa format). That is, it considers it not only possible but also necessary to give its assessments to any measures that New Delhi takes in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In particular, a number of measures made by the Indian Parliament on August 5, 2019, have received strong public criticism in Pakistan. Since then, “Mourning Day” has been held on this occasion.
In Shehbaz Sharif’shttps://www.nation.com.pk/06-Jul-2023/pakistan-will-fulfil-imf-conditions-violated-by-pti-govt-pm-shehbaz remarks at the summit under discussion, long-standing claims to India were evident (although without mentioning it directly). These included the same CPEC, “religious minorities’ rights,” or state terror. In the latter case, the actions of Indian law enforcement agencies in the “Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir” were implicated. It should be noted, however, that practically every incidence involving the use of guns is viewed in New Delhi as a justification for accusing Islamabad of “sponsoring terrorism.”
The speeches of all participants in the summit, including UN Secretary-General António Guterres, as well as the above-mentioned final document, were made in what is called “politically correct tones.” Both for each other and for the SCO as a whole.
Nonetheless, expert are rather skeptical in their appraisals of the event’s outcomes as well as the SCO’s future. In particular, China’s Global Times commented in critical tones on the Indian side’s refusal to sign the “Economic Development Strategy for 2030.” India’s stated reason was the abundance in the prepared document of so-called “Chinese catchphrases” characteristic of Beijing’s political rhetoric.
However, this reality appears to reflect India’s determination not to bind itself to any long-term commitment with a country with whom relations are rather “complicated.” It is this last factor that explains the “tilt” in Indian foreign policy towards Washington with its main allies, primarily Tokyo,https://journal-neo.su/ru/2023/06/26/indiya-i-yaponiya-formiruyut-novyj-aziatskij-alyans/ including India’s membership in interstate configurations involving the UShttps://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pm-modi-us-visit-state-luncheon-hosted-by-kamala-harris-antony-blinken-praises-bilateral-cooperation-101687545076941.html, and its acceptance of the development of relations with Taiwan “at the regional level.”
And that despite the fact that India’s government frequently states its lack of intentions to infringe on the interests of other key parties in relation to these and comparable questions in Indian foreign policy, Most likely, it is being honest. However, the reality is that real-life circumstances almost always outweigh “good intentions.”
It is precisely these current, increasingly worrisome “circumstances” that are at the root of practically all international structures and platforms’ near-paralysis. They did not spare the SCO, which is fundamentally fraught with universal issues that threaten to divide both this particular organization and the global system as a whole.
There is no other means to resolve them other than the refusal of each of the emerging geopolitical “poles” to attempt to “trip up” its neighbor, only to then giggle up their sleeve from around the corner, watching the hapless neighbor wipe his bloody face. That is the nature of the conflict in Ukraine, by the way.
Only the joint elaboration of (nowadays mostly taken in vain) “rules of conduct” in the international arena, reflecting the emerging new conditions, as well as the mandatory adherence to these rules, can prevent the deepening of the emerging lines of division.
Otherwise, we would all have to listen to the howls of adherents of “Sarmats,” “Poseidons” and other “Hypersonics.” Which, however, did not bring anything new in terms of the approaches to solving some annoying problems.
For it has long been observed that the guillotine is the surest cure for dandruff.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.