Asianet NewsableAsianet Newsable

‘Non-Western’ and not ‘Anti-Western’: India’s Delicate Tango at SCO Summit

The 24th SCO Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, discussed regional cooperation, adopting the Astana Declaration and approving 25 strategic documents on energy, security, and trade. Member-states endorsed the Initiative on World Unity for Just Peace, Harmony, and Development. Leaders including Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended, with China assuming the next SCO chairmanship.

Non Western and not Anti Western India delicate tango at SCO summit
First Published Jul 5, 2024, 3:37 PM IST

The 24th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit, 2024, was held in Astana, Kazakhstan, from July 3-4. It discussed several important topics affecting its member countries and the surrounding region. 

Spirit of the SCO

The SCO was formed in Shanghai on June 15, 2001, by early members China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan—and, later, Uzbekistan. The group, which had started out as the Shanghai Five in 1996, metamorphosed into the SCO to better address regional cooperation and security needs. The SCO is made up of countries that represent 40% of the world’s population. Together, these countries contribute over $23 trillion to the global economy.

Jaishankar, Chinese FM Wang Yi commit to resolving border issues; emphasize 'three mutuals' at SCO summit

The SCO has expanded to a nine-member organization, including India, Iran, and Pakistan. The three observer countries are Mongolia, Belarus and Afghanistan. Additionally, 14 countries, such as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Türkiye, are dialogue partners. At the 2022 Samarkand SCO Summit, steps were taken to upgrade Belarus’s status to a full member of the organization.

Why India Became a Member: India joined the SCO in 2017, along with Pakistan. India’s interest in the SCO comes from its support for a multipolar world. For a long time, India has wanted to access Central Asia’s natural resources, but its efforts were hindered by years of tension with Pakistan.

PM Modi to travel to Italy this week for G7 Summit in 1st trip abroad in 3rd term; revisiting India-Italy ties

A 2017 government Note stated that being a permanent member of the SCO would give India unique opportunities to engage constructively with Eurasia. New Delhi had planned a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India through Pakistan and Afghanistan, but security concerns stopped the project. The SCO was also viewed as a way to pressure Pakistan into taking action against terrorism.

SCO’s Significance for India: One of the reasons India decided to join the SCO is because Russia plays a key role in the group and it has become a platform that is not dominated by Western countries. Modi may have skipped this year’s summit because of the Ukraine war and China’s increasing influence over Russia. Indian and Chinese soldiers have been in a tense standoff in Ladakh since 2020, with no signs of improvement. Additionally, India’s relationship with Pakistan is strained due to concerns about terrorism. Now that India is a full member, it will not leave the group, but how actively it will participate in the future is uncertain.

Modi's historic 3rd term: G-20 Summit-like security measures in Delhi for June 9 swearing-in ceremony

India’s Balanced SCO Stance: At the Munich Security Conference earlier this year, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar described India as ‘non-Western’, rather than ‘anti-Western’. He emphasised that India wanted to have multiple options, which could mean staying involved in such groups as the SCO, BRICS and Quad. However, India would be uneasy with the SCO if it adopts an anti-Western stance. This is a potential issue due to the tensions between the West and both China and Russia.

Astana Declaration

On Thursday (July 4), during the 24th summit of the SCO Council of Heads of State, the Astana Declaration was adopted. The summit also approved 25 strategic documents related to energy, security, trade, finance and information security. At the summit, SCO member-states endorsed the Initiative on World Unity for Just Peace, Harmony, and Development. This initiative was first proposed by Kazakhstan.

The Astana Declaration highlighted the SCO’s role in promoting global peace, security and stability. It also emphasised the need for a new, fair and democratic international political and economic order, inviting the global community to support this initiative.

'Hello from the Melodi team': Italian PM Meloni, PM Modi's cheerful selfie video sets Internet abuzz (WATCH)

The SCO Council of Heads of State also approved the SCO Development Strategy until 2035. This strategy outlines the group’s collective goals, considering Belarus’s new membership status.

Important resolutions include cooperation programmes to fight terrorism, separatism and extremism from 2025 to 2027, as well as an Anti-Drug Strategy for the next five years and its corresponding action programme. Strategies for Energy Cooperation until 2030 and the action plan for the Economic Development Strategy until 2030 were also approved. Additionally, resolutions included the creation of an Association of Investors, programmes for cooperation in protected areas and eco-tourism. Resolutions on methods for financing SCO projects were also passed.

G7 Summit: What Justin Trudeau said after meeting with PM Modi in Italy

Further commitments included signing a memorandum of understanding between the SCO Secretariat and the Central Asian Regional Information Coordination Center to fight illegal drug trafficking. The summit also adopted a plan for cooperation among member states on international information security issues.

The member-states also signed statements supporting principles of good neighbourliness, trust and partnership. They committed to ensuring safe drinking water and sanitation and promoting effective waste management and formalising an agreement on environmental protection cooperation among SCO governments. At the end of the summit, China took over as the SCO chair for the next term and Qingdao was named as the SCO’s tourism and cultural capital for 2024-2025.

The 2004 Attendees

Sixteen world leaders attended the SCO summit in Astana. Chinese President Xi Jinping landed in Astana on July 2 to attend the summit, as also for a state visit.

PM Modi meets Italian PM Giorgia Meloni at G7 Summit, greeted with 'Namaste' (WATCH)

The other leaders included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

India was represented by S Jaishankar. Attendees included Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who was visiting Central Asia, also attended the summit. He arrived in Almaty on July 3.

(The author of this article is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also the Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach him at:

Latest Videos
Follow Us:
Download App:
  • android
  • ios