Regional Summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO): Basics Explained

The 23rd regional summit of the of the Council of Heads of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was hosted virtually by India.

Leaders of the grouping on Tuesday sought to forge closer ties and boost cooperation within the expanding Eurasian bloc but stressed the group is not directed against any other states.

They spoke in favour of implementing the roadmap for gradual increase in the share of national currencies in mutual settlements by the interested member states.

A joint declaration also said SCO members oppose bloc, ideological and confrontational approaches to address problems and security challenges.

All members bar India also supported China’s vast Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) scheme which envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with large infrastructure spending. Iran joined the grouping , becoming its ninth member.



SCO, pan-Eurasian grouping, is a consortium of select Asian nations that focuses on security and trade. The SCO has eight member countries which represent around 42% of the world’s population and 20% of the global GDP.

The SCO emerged from Shanghai Five (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) which was founded in 1996 after demarcation of China’s borders with the four newly independent States that appeared after collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This was transformed into today’s SCO with the induction of Uzbekistan as a new member at the Shanghai summit in 2001.

India, along with Pakistan, assumes full membership of SCO during Summit meeting in Astana (2017), Kazhakstan. They became seventh and eighth members of the SCO. India was admitted into the SCO as an observer at the 2005 Astana Summit along with Iran and Pakistan.

Four Observer States interested in acceding to full membership (Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia) and six “Dialogue Partners” (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey).

In 2021, the decision was made to start the accession process of Iran to the SCO as a full member, and Egypt, Qatar as well as Saudi Arabia became dialogue partners.

Since its inception in 2001, the SCO has mainly focused on regional security issues, its fight against regional terrorism, ethnic separatism, and religious extremism. To date, the SCO’s priorities also include regional development.


The SCO region covers almost 60 percent of the Eurasian landmass, with over 1.5 billion people included in its population, including some of the world’s leading energy-rich nations. So, its importance is likely to grow in the coming years.

India’s growing stakes in Central Asia too are well-recognized. For India, therefore, a membership in the SCO is primarily its gateway to Central Asia. India is hoping to be able to access trade and transit routes between Russia and China, which pass through Central Asian countries.

Joining the SCO will be a welcome diplomatic boost to India’s efforts to connect with Central Asia.

Central Asia is part of India’s extended neighbourhood.
India’s membership in the SCO will provide a welcome opportunity for India’s leadership to meet with their counterparts from Central Asia, Russia, China, Afghanistan, and others regularly and frequently.

India’s potential participation in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will be an added advantage to make this partnership more fruitful.

On the security front, the SCO remains committed to fighting the so-called “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism. Here too there is much room for cooperation, as India has been a victim of terrorist attacks.

India could gain from SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure – manned by 30 professionals analysing key intelligence inputs on the movements of terror outfits, drug-trafficking, cyber security threats and public information. Likewise, participation in SCO’s counter-terror exercises and military drills could be beneficial to the Indian armed forces.

There is potential of profiting in terms of energy security.

SCO membership provides India a vital counter to some of the other groupings it is a part of, balancing out its stated policy of pursuing “multi-alignments”. It is a platform also for alignments on issues such as energy security, connectivity, and trade.



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