September 16, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is still relevant for India. We also look at the Andhra Pradesh government’s internship program for UG students, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – Is It Still Relevant For India?
The 22nd Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is being held at Samarkand, Uzbekistan, between September 15 and 16. India will be assuming the presidency of the organisation post the session and will host the 2023 Summit. At a time when the world is becoming increasingly polarised, is it beneficial for India to remain a part of the SCO?
The recent political developments in the member nations of the organisation prompt us to look at the SCO’s relevance for India.
Initially, the organisation was formed as the Shanghai Five in 1996 with five member countries namely, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. While Uzbekistan was admitted in 2001, India and Pakistan joined as its members in 2017. Born out of the end of the Cold War, the grouping eventually discovered a common interest in countering terrorism. Currently, China is lobbying to make Iran an SCO member.
Adopting a prominently anti-West character, the SCO was formed to counter the influence of the United States (US) in NATO as well as the western countries in Central Asia and Eurasia. Recently, however, with India’s increasing engagement with western countries such as the US, it would be challenging to maintain proximity with this organisation. China’s dominance in the organisation in addition to the strained border issues between India and China further complicates India’s position in the SCO.
Since India has adopted a neutral stance regarding the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, we enjoy close ties with Russia as it is also the top oil and defence supplier to India. Additionally, India has accelerated its ties with Central Asia as it participates in Dustlik, a joint military exercise with Uzbekistan. India is also involved in many connectivity projects with Central Asia and Eurasia which also stray from the character of the SCO.
VIEW: SCO is beneficial for India
India is currently in a unique global position. Against the backdrop of rapid global polarisation, the country has chosen to fall back on its time-tested policy of non-alignment. Now labelled strategic autonomy and multi-alignment, this policy will help India stay away from West-East conflict areas and assert itself as the next rising power simultaneously.
As India reaps its benefits from the countries that are a part of the SCO, we still maintain military and trade ties with the US and Europe. This comes in the form of participating in the Quad and signing free trade agreements (FTA) with the UK and Australia while also strengthening cultural links. India’s ties with Russia remain stable as the country provides us with inexpensive military hardware and offers energy security.
As for China, after the withdrawal of forces at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh along with impending negotiations for further disengagement, its hostility towards India has waned. The SCO membership also offers the opportunity to engage with Pakistan in a wider regional setting and push its agenda of regional and cross-regional connectivity. India can also push the Chabahar port project and International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) during the Summit.
COUNTERVIEW: SCO is not relevant to India
In terms of countering terrorism, the SCO has done little in practical terms. While regular meetings are held in this regard, leading to the establishment of RATS (Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure), there is no substantial contribution to this area. It has been argued that India could pursue its plan to find a land route to Afghanistan owing to its membership in the SCO. However, Afghanistan is merely an observer rendering the organisation unhelpful in this regard.
The presence of Pakistan and China in the SCO poses a challenge for India. While hostilities between China and India are just beginning to recede, it is no surprise that China will back Pakistan, as was seen in the dispute regarding Kashmir. The tension at the LAC until recently was not interfered with by the SCO in any capacity considering the dominance of China in the organisation. Even amidst the Doklam dispute, the organisation could not lend a helping hand.
Now let’s take a look at the overall purpose of the SCO. The members of the organisation do not have many clear overlapping goals, questioning its ability to achieve anything at all. The future of the organisation is uncertain owing to its negligible achievements. From the perspective of India, the involvement of Pakistan and China automatically nullifies any larger benefit for the country.
- Is Shanghai Cooperation Organisation relevant for India? (The Times of India)
- SCO summit will test India’s ability to steer through the global minefield (News Nine)
- Does India Gain Anything From the Shanghai Cooperation Organization? (The Diplomat)
- What Lies Ahead for India After Joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (The Wire)
- India and SCO: The Real Benefit (Gateway House)
- China Will Regret India’s Entry Into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (The RAND Blog)
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is beneficial for India.
b) The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is not relevant to India.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
From Hindi Divas To Bhasha Divas: Five Ideas The BJP Must Internalise
For the Left:
Modi Government Must Be Applauded For Shielding India From Global Energy Inflation
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Preponing paddy procurement (Haryana) – Haryana is considering beginning paddy procurement earlier than usual. It was previously slated to begin on October 1. State Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister J P Dalal said last year that procurement began on September 25. He cautioned that the moisture levels in the crop are high, and it won’t have many buyers in its current form.
Why it matters: Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the arrival of paddy had begun in mandis, and the government should start buying from September 20. Commission agents in the mandis want the government to begin procurement immediately. Last year, the Centre’s decision to delay procurement due to heavy rains resulted in protests.
Internship for UG students (Andhra Pradesh) – The state government will conduct an internship programme for about 2.5 lakh UG students. It will be implemented by the Andhra Pradesh State Council for Higher Education (APSCHE). The scheme will have 10-month mandatory internship programmes for students of both professional and conventional degree courses. The first internship on Community Service will happen after the second-semester exams.
Why it matters: The programme has been designed to give students hands-on technical and practical skills to increase their employability. The number of students will increase next year to almost 7 lakh. The internships will be virtual and on-site, with companies like Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce participating.
Rains raise Patratu Dam’s water level (Jharkhand) – The water level at the Patratu dam near the Patratu Thermal Power Station has increased to above the danger level due to heavy rainfall. The region has been receiving heavy rainfall resulting in floods. Authorities had to open two more gates to reduce the water level. Two other gates were already open last month as water levels increased.
Why it matters: By opening the gates, there’s a danger to residents of the region. Authorities have issued a warning due to heavy rains and the opening of four gates of the dam that has flooded the Nalkari and Damodar rivers in the district. They have asked people not to venture near the rivers.
Ship recyclers struggle with costs (Gujarat) – At Asia’s biggest ship-recycling yard in the state, units face high costs from following safety and pollution guidelines, regulatory charges from the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), and a weakening rupee against the US dollar. The recyclers complied with the Hong Kong Convention 2009 and Ship Recycling Code 2013. While they don’t mind adhering to the norms, they want some relief to support local recyclers.
Why it matters: With these high costs, the units can’t compete with their Bangladeshi counterparts. They don’t spend as much on following norms. Without some financial relief, the recyclers won’t be able to utilise half of their existing capacity. The number of ships being dismantled at the site has reduced. Also, the Centre’s decision to impose a duty on iron ore is another challenge the recyclers face. They’ve also reduced the import duty on finished steel goods.
Militant groups sign accord (Assam) – The Centre will sign a peace agreement with five Adivasi militant outfits from Assam. These groups are currently under a ceasefire agreement with the government after they suspended operations years ago. Since then, peace talks have taken place. More than a hundred cadres from these groups are temporarily living in designated camps under the Assam police’s protection.
Why it matters: Last January, more than 1,600 cadres of four factions laid down their arms after the signing of the Bodo peace accord with the Centre in January 2020. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma appeared confident and said the signing would bring in a new era of peace of harmony in the state. The Centre has also been trying to conclude the decades-old Naga peace talks.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹4,588.75 crores – The loss incurred by Byju’s parent company, Think and Learn Private Limited. The company announced it changed its accounting standard, which delayed the reporting of revenues.