India is all set to host the virtual summit of the SCO Heads of the Government on November 30, in which Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is expected to participate.
Surprisingly, within three years of joining, India is seeking integration with the organisation considered as arch-rival of the United States. India ardently participated in a series of SCO’s annual activities except in this year’s military exercise “Kavkaz 2020” citing the pandemic related constraints.
Twenty years in, the SCO isn’t an effective regional powerhouse as yet. But, given the current conflation of global economic uncertainty, and against the Chinese assertion, the SCO is a useful platform for India to espouse its strategic autonomy in the global affairs.
The charters of the SCO are less confrontational and the decisions are consensus-based. Considering India’s profile and benign image, the forum is well suited to play a balancing role vis-à-vis its ties with the U.S while simultaneously keeping China’s regional ambitions in check.
It’s obviously in no one’s interest to let Eurasia once again becoming a chessboard of great game rivalries or a hub of terrorism and extremism. India’s persistent strong voice to combat terrorist networks is already having a region-wide positive effect. An urge in Central Asia to deepen and expand its regional autonomy vis-à-vis Russia and China cannot be simply ignored by India.
First, New Delhi should use the summit to restore the SCO’s original commitment to function in compliance with its basic Principles and Charters, which has been eroded by some member states while repeatedly dragging bilateral issues in the agenda.