India’s anxiety to sign bilateral trade deals with neighboring nations and regional organisations to boost her exports took another step forward when it pinned its hopes on acquiring a seat at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation‘s high table last week. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), is a central Asian grouping dominated by China and Russia, and looked upon by many as an emerging counter-weight to NATO.
India’s decision to join the SCO comes close on the heels of New Delhi signing 34 deals with the Uzbekistan government, admist plans for consummating an FTA with ASEAN nations to create the worlds largest regional trade agreement and a call for peace following the Jasmine revolution. Joining the SCO will not only give India a leg up in being part of one of the world’s most regional powerful groups, but will also enhance the flow of Indian goods and energy resources into these vastly emerging economies. Afterall, the SCO countries (full members and observers) comprise a hefty 25 percent of the Earth’s land area. In addition, membership of the SCO will align India’s regional security interests with that of Russia and China which are increasingly gaining power and prestige over central Asia.
Both India and Pakistan, which is being supported by China have vied for entry into the SCO at the summit meet next month in Kazakhstan’s Astana where the group will take up the expansion issue. India and Pakistan, along with Iran and Mongolia, have observer status at SCO. The United States applied for observer status but was denied in 2005.
Founded in 2001 in Shanghai, by the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, the SCO was originally formed due to growing security concerns in the region, but its role has been extended to encompass economic benefits to member countries as well. The organisation whose heads of state meet once every year, has held ten meetings till date, in 2008 Dushanbe, Tajikistan hosted the SCO while in 2009 the SCO was held in Yekaterinberg, Russia.