Brig Vijay Sagar Dheman
SCO meet was held at Samarkand in Uzbekistan ON 15-16 September. It is for the first time that Heads of States of Russia, China and India had been joined by Iranian President. Launched in Shanghai in June 2001, the SCO has eight full members, including its six founding members i.e China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan joined as full members in 2017. India joined SCO, post Mumbai attack and is interested in this alliance for its fight against terrorism, connectivity in central Asian region and promoting its trade and security ties in the region. SCO observer states include Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia. Dialogue partners include Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Besides the eight SCO members, Heads of the States of Iran, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia (the two countries which are locked in a military conflict) were present at the Samarkand summit making it a huge conclave.
What is strikingly important about this meet was, that there was a possibility of issues like Russia-Ukraine war, tension in South China Sea over Taiwan and Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict coming out in open. Despite common issues on agenda, the Heads of States discussed issues in bilateral manner on the sidelines of the summit. India was under great pressure to maintain its stance (regarding remaining aligned to its own national interests) i.e urging the Russia and Ukraine to end the human crisis without offending Russia. Also to maintain its anti China stance (due to Eastern Ladakh) and continue to be a member in USA led QUAD.
India has its security challenges in Eastern Ladakh and Indo-Pacific. Before the meet started India had an agreement with China regarding the disengagement on PP15 in ‘Gogra’ and ‘Hot Springs’ region in Eastern Ladakh. Probably that was to thaw the animosity between two nations. As far as the cooperation with USA is concerned, it is the need more of US thinkers/administration rather than Indian establishment. Nevertheless, India cannot forget its historic ties, support during 1971 war, contemporary defence cooperation and cultural ties with Russia.
India has played its cards well in front of the western world, wherein, it could justify the ties and trade with Russia despite sanctions on Russia from the WEST. US administration was forced to get a waiver passed in its parliament as regards US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to allow India to buy oil from Russia on cheaper terms and obtain delivery of S-400 Surface to Air Missiles. Indian EAM S Jaishanker gave a befitting reply to EU when they tried implying that India was fueling the war in Ukraine by buying Russian oil.
Now, the moot point before the summit was, what would be the stance of India when Russia and China team up against USA led alliances of Japan and Australia under the banners of QUAD in Western Pacific Ocean and AUKUS in Indo Pacific. Iran teaming up Russia-China, along with Pakistan, will be a source of worry in Arabian Sea. Russia is humbled by sanctions and China is yet to come squarely with US led alliance. Both together can be a formidable show of force in Indo Pacific. The recently concluded Ex Vostok 2022, in Siberia-the Far Eastern Federal District-the Sea of Okhotsk-Sea of Japan, was a warning signal for the Japanese military standing in alliance with USA war machine. After this show of force, Japan has increased its defence budget manifold. Similarly, recent Ukraine counter offensive in Kharkiev sector pushing Russians back has heightened the tensions.
Subsequent to the visit of Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, USA has overtly started militarising Taiwan to blunt any Chinese plans to run over Taiwan as per its ‘One China Policy’. USA has been arming and training Taiwanese forces and has announced fresh weapons package of $4.5 billion for Taiwan. Under the circumstances, China-Russia alliance becomes important to contain American forces’ influence in the region. The SCO dominated by Russia and China had focused on mutual cooperation with an aim to look for support from SCO partners. In this military quagmire and sanctions regime promoted by CAATSA by USA, there was huge pressure on India to pick sides. India was able to stand firm on its stand not to side with any alliance. India could maintain focus on Indian security interests only in Eastern Ladakh and Indo Pacific.
The SCO declaration proposed to respect each country’s right to the principle of respecting each country’s national sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, without interference on internal affairs, firmly opposed militarization in the fields of IT and non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It favoured Afghanistan to become an independent, unified, democratic, and peaceful nation free from terrorism, conflict, and drugs. The SCO countries condemned terrorist acts worldwide and intended to eliminate conditions that could support terrorism, separatism and extremism. The biggest take away from Indian perspective was that the member countries are required to draw a joint list of individual terrorists and terror organization in all member states. This will reveal Pakistani terrorists and terror organizations identified and designated by the UNO. The implication of this is that China will not be able to use veto in favour of Pakistani terror machine in Security Council. A big win for India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his bilateral meet, could ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the Ukraine conflict, saying, “Today’s era is not of war”. To which, Putin replied, “I know your position on the conflict in Ukraine and your concerns that you constantly express. We will do our best to stop this as soon as possible”. Modi’s bilateral talks with Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkey were successful. In his bilateral with Iran, Modi and President Ebrahim Raisi reviewed the trade ties, discussed energy ties and improvement of trade through the Chabahar port to Afghanistan and Central Asia, where India has heavily invested. India was able to convince the world of its newly doctrine of ‘All Aligned’ policy with every nation and could focus on ‘Issue Based Alliances’ only based on India’s national interests in the contemporary comity of nations. BRAVO Modi ji !!!!
(The author is an International Affairs Expert)
Brig Vijay Sagar Dheman