Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (sco) UPSC

shanghai cooperation organisation (sco) , Why in News ? : Indian Prime Minister stress on “territorial integrity” in recent submit on SCO without referring Pakistan and China.

What is Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) ?

  • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai (China) by  Kazakhstan, the China, Kyrgyzstan, Russian, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.
  • The organisation has expanded its membership to eight countries when India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
  • SCO counts four observer states, namely Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia
  • SCO has six dialogue partners, namely Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, the Federal Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.
  • The official working languages of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are Chinese and Russian.
  • SCO is widely regarded as the “alliance of the East”, due to its growing centrality in Asia-Pacific, and has been the primary security pillar of the region.
  • SCO is the largest regional organisation in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population.
  • SCO was established as a multilateral association to ensure security and maintain stability across the vast Eurasian region, join forces to counteract emerging challenges and threats, and enhance trade, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation.

 Aims of SCO ?

  • SCO aims to build a just polycentric world order, in full conformity with the norms of international law and principles of mutual respect, which meets the interests of each and every State, taking into account their mutual needs and aspirations.
  • As a multinational and multicultural organization, SCO strives to stave off the clash of civilizations across its respective regions.
  • Adhering to the principles of openness, SCO does not intend to form any alliances or direct its actions against any sovereign entity.


  • Shanghai Five grouping was created 26 April 1996 with the signing of the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions in Shanghai, China by the heads of states of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan
  • On 24 April 1997, the same countries signed the Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions in a meeting in Moscow, Russia.
  • On 20 May 1997, Russia and China signed a declaration on a “multipolar world”.
  • Shanghai-Six – In 2001, the annual summit returned to Shanghai. There the five member nations first admitted Uzbekistan in the Shanghai Five mechanism
  • Then all six heads of state signed on 15 June 2001 the Declaration of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and aiming to transform it to a higher level of cooperation.
  • In June 2002, the heads of the SCO member states met in Saint Petersburg, Russia. There they signed the SCO Charter which expounded on the organisation’s purposes, principles, structures and forms of operation, and established it in international law.

SCO Organization Structure

shanghai cooperation organisation (sco)
  • Council of Heads of State – It is top decision-making body in the SCO. This council meets at the SCO summits, which are held each year in one of the member states’ capital cities.
  • Council of Heads of Government – It is second-highest council in the organisation. This council also holds annual summits, at which time members discuss issues of multilateral cooperation. The council also approves the organisation’s budget.
  • Council of Foreign Ministers also hold regular meetings, where they discuss the current international situation and the SCO’s interaction with other international organisations.
  • Council of National Coordinators – coordinates the multilateral cooperation of member states within the framework of the SCO’s charter.
  • Secretariat of the SCO – It is primary and permanent executive body of the organisation. It serves to implement organisational decisions and decrees, drafts proposed documents (such as declarations and agendas), function as a document depository for the organisation, arranges specific activities within the SCO framework, and promotes and disseminates information about the SCO. It is located in Beijing.
  • Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) –  The headquartered is in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, is a permanent organ of the SCO which serves to promote cooperation of member states against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism. The Head of RATS is elected to a three-year term. Each member state also sends a permanent representative to RATS.

Organization’s Capacity-building

  • largest regional organization on Earth – Stretching north to south from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean and east to west from Lianyungang in China to Kaliningrad in the Russian Federation—home to almost 44 per cent of the world’s population.
    • This strength emphasize on fundamental task of collectively maintaining stability and effectively counteracting security threats.
  • Consolidating four nuclear powers –  half of the world’s nuclear States—into a single regional organization, serves as an additional deterrent within the system established to maintain the world’s strategic balance of power and political stability.
  • Astana Declaration – 2017 – outlines further steps the organization will take against threats to international peace and security.

How India became a member of SCO ?

  • In July 2005, at the summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, with representatives of India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan attending an SCO summit for the first time.
  • In July 2015 in Ufa, Russia, the SCO decided to admit India and Pakistan as full members.
  • Both signed the memorandum of obligations in June 2016 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, thereby starting the formal process of joining the SCO as full members.
  • On 9 June 2017, at a summit in Astana, India and Pakistan officially joined SCO as full members.

SCO’s engagement with other International Organization

  • The SCO has established relations with the United Nations in 2004 (where it is an observer in the General Assembly), Commonwealth of Independent States in 2005
  • Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2005
  • Collective Security Treaty Organization in 2007
  • Economic Cooperation Organization in 2007
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2011
  • Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in 2014
  • United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in 2015
  • African Union in 2018.

SCO area of Activity

Cooperation on security

  • SCO is primarily centered on its member nations’ Central Asian security-related concerns, often describing the main threats it confronts as being terrorism, separatism and extremism. However evidence is growing that its activities in the area of social development of its member states is increasing fast.
  • April 2006, the SCO announced plans to fight cross-border drug crimes under the counter-terrorism rubric.
  • October 2007, the SCO signed an agreement with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), to broaden cooperation on issues such as security, crime, and drug trafficking.
  • Organisation is also redefining cyberwarfare, saying that the dissemination of information “harmful to the spiritual, moral and cultural spheres of other states” should be considered a “security threat”.
  • The Diplomat reported in 2017 that SCO has foiled 600 terror plots and extradited 500 terrorists through RATS

Military activities

  • Over the past few years, the organisation’s activities have expanded to include increased military cooperation, intelligence sharing, and counterterrorism.
  • Military exercises are regularly conducted among members to promote cooperation and coordination against terrorism and other external threats, and to maintain regional peace and stability.
  • There have been a number of SCO joint military exercises.
  • SCO has served as a platform for larger military announcements by members.
  • Memorandum of Understanding between the secretariats of the SCO and the CSTO was signed in 5 October 2007.

Economic cooperation

  • Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are also members of the Eurasian Economic Union and proposed a long-term objective to establish a free trade area in the SCO.
  • SCO will prioritise joint energy projects, including in the oil and gas sector, the exploration of new hydrocarbon reserves, and joint use of water resources. The creation of the SCO Interbank Consortium was also agreed upon
  • 2009 – China announced plans to provide a US$10 billion loan to SCO member states to shore up the struggling economies of its members amid the global financial crisis.
  • At Bishkek summit June 2019, Pakistani propose to build a market of local currency instead of US Dollars among the members of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Cultural cooperation

  • Cultural cooperation also occurs in the SCO framework.
  • Culture ministers of the SCO met for the first time in Beijing on 12 April 2002, signing a joint statement for continued cooperation.
  • An SCO Arts Festival and Exhibition was held for the first time during the Astana Summit in 2005.
  • Kazakhstan has also suggested an SCO folk dance festival to take place in 2008, in Astana.

Challenges for SCO

After India and Pakistan become its member regional issue is bound to emerged

Wide range of security challenges – The SCO security challenges includes combating terrorism, extremism and separatism; drug and weapons trafficking, illegal immigration, etc.

Slow decision making – Despite being geographically close, the rich diversity in member’s history, backgrounds, language, national interests and form of government, wealth and culture makes the SCO decision making challenging.

Importance for India

India’s membership of SCO can help in achieving regional integration, promote connectivity and stability across borders.


  • Also can effectively tackle anti-drug trafficking and small arms proliferation.
  • India can also pursued and enhanced cooperation on terrorism and radicalization issue that emerged from member nations.
  • India through RATS can enhance its counterterrorism capacity, it will have better access to intelligence sharing, law enforcement and developing best practices and technologies.

Trade Co-operation

  • SCO provides direct important access to Central Asia – overcoming the main hindrance in flourishing of trade between India and Central Asia.
  • SCO acts as potential alternative route to Central Asia for Indian industry such as IT, Telecommunications, banking, finance and pharmaceutical industries.

Energy Security

  • SCO provides it with an opportunity to meet its energy requirements through regional diplomacy.
    • For example – construction of stalled pipelines like the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline; IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline can get a much needed push through the SCO.

Geopolitical Importance

  • “Connect Central Asian Policy” – Central Asia being extended part of India’s Extended Neighbourhood – SCO provides India required opportunity
  • Platform for India to simultaneously engage with its traditional friend Russia as well as its rivals, China and Pakistan.

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