The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a Eur-Asian political, economic and security alliance formed in 2001 in Shanghai, China, from where it gets its name. The organization was preceded by a group known as the Shanghai Five Group. The group consisted of five Eur-Asian countries: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The original five countries have since expanded their membership to India and Pakistan, who joined the organization in June 2017.
The organization aims to maintain peace and stability in the region and holds military exercises to promote coordination against threats to the Eur-Asian area. The SCO meets to undertake decisions on regional issues, including economic and cultural cooperation. The Head of State Council (HSC) is the highest decision-making authority in the organization. The SCO meets annually in the capital of one of its member states.
Membership is an important alliance, such as the SCO is vital for Pakistan. China’s BRI and particularly CPEC in Pakistan can be attributed to the good relations between the two, brought about by such alliances. For India, membership in the SCO is a step towards better relations with its geographical neighbors, especially China and Pakistan.
However, Indian journalists believe that membership in the SCO is not favorable for the country due to the presence of China and Pakistan. A disillusionment such as this is unfortunate for a country that struggles to hold diplomatic relations with its counterparts. What could have been an opportunity for discussion on regional peace has been disregarded as inconsequential dialogue.
On September 15th, the SCO met online and consisted of National Security Advisors (NSA) from across the five countries. Russia hosted the meeting. The agenda of the meeting was Pakistan’s new political map, which was released in August 2020 and the objections posed on it by India. The discussion of this particular agenda was against the norms of the SCO meeting. The formal objection to the political map was only brought up a day before the NSA meeting.
Representing India was Ajit Doval, who voiced the objection that Pakistan displayed territories belonging to India as part of Pakistan in the new political map. This objection was aimed particularly in the region of Jammu & Kashmir. The Indian foreign ministry spokesman, Anurag Srivastava, stated that Pakistan has “deliberately projected a fictitious map…”
The region of Jammu & Kashmir is recognized as disputed territory by international law and neither country has any legal claims on the region. This much was pointed out by Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor, along with the statement that the new political map did not encompass any Indian territory in Pakistan’s borders. Pakistan also took the opportunity to point out to the SCO that Indian actions in occupied Kashmir are in grave violation of the UNSC charter and international laws regarding warfare.
Pakistan iterated the country’s aim to stand for the Kashmiri right to self-determination through a fair and impartial plebiscite in the occupied region following international regulations. The SCO backed up Pakistan’s position and regarded Indian objections as spurious. This resulted in Indian objections being overruled in the meeting, leading to the Indian delegate walking out. Mr. Srivastava has stated that this was in “protest” to the decision of the SCO.
However, Pakistan’s NSA remained a part of the meeting and voiced Pakistan’s position of solidarity with Kashmir and intentions to respect international regulations in the region. Mr. Yusuf also said,
“Bizarrely, my Indian counterpart chose to walk out of Pakistan and Russia’s speech. Left a bad taste at a forum whose whole spirit is cooperation.”
Truly enough, the move was in poor taste, as was the discussion of bilateral issues at a forum where multilateral cooperation and peace in the Eur-Asian region was being discussed.
Nausheen Samad is a student of Social Entreprenuership at Institute of Business Management and has interests in International Relations, Philosophy and Political Sociology.