GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 662, 18 September 2022

SCO Summit 2022: Who said what
Bhoomika Sesharaj

SCO Summit 2022: Who said what
On 15 and 16 September in Uzbekistan, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation met in two years to discuss bilateral cooperation and strengthening mutual confidence. The Summit was attended by India, Russia and China, along with seven other members. The summit welcomed Iran as a permanent member. 

Promising peace and security, the SCO primarily focused on mutual trust in the military sphere when it first came into existence through the Shanghai Five, a political association when the People's Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, were a part of the Agreement on Confidence-Building in the Military Field in the Border Area (Shanghai, 1996) and the Agreement on the Mutual Reduction of Armed Forces in the Border Area (Moscow, 1997). The accession of Uzbekistan in 2001 led to the renaming and establishment of the Shanghai Five as the Shanghai Corporation Organisation (SCO). The Charter was signed at the St. Petersburg Summit in June 2002, stipulating the SCO's primary cooperation and shared objectives. 
Under a similar purview, the heads of the SCO signed a 20-year programme of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation. Citing the programme to establish free trade zones & favourable commerce activities comprehensively. After 14 years, in another historic meeting of the SCO in Kazakhstan, India and Pakistan were granted permanent status as Heads of State Council which led to the holistic completion of the SCO. 

The SCO marked one of the first meetings attended by President Xi Jinping after the outbreak of COVID-19. Urging the SCO members to strengthen practical cooperation among themselves, China said that it is ready to work with other stakeholders to elevate global development through the BRI. Pledging humanitarian assistance and cooperation documents in areas of trade and investment, infrastructure and supply chains, China consistently called out "colour revolutions" and urged the group to stay far from the West's perception of Asia. Xi warned against the "obsession with forming a small circle" and reiterated the importance of capitalising on multilateralism.

On the Ukraine war Russia maintained that it would only get worse if the opposition would not back down. Russia urged closer ties with China on the basis of the realisation of common goals and objectives as SCO member states. Russia also acknowledged the rotating presidency of India for next year's summit of 2023 and pushed free visa travel between India and Russia. It promised pipeline gas supplies to Pakistan, as well. Crediting Iran for its permanency in the SCO, Russia seemed to play the role of a supportive ally to the SCO while also upholding its stance on the Ukraine crisis. 

Prime Minister Modi attended the summit with intentions set to achieve credible support for his energy security and transit rights agenda. He urged the members to set a balanced approach against climate change as well. Modi said to Putin that "it is not an era of war" and pushed Russia to delve into food, fuel and fertiliser security issues. Modi also underlined the transit trade and connectivity between the SCO member states, saying that transit rights between the states would boost communication and dialogue between the members. 
India also held sideline talks with Iran to boost bilateral ties and connectivity, speaking about the Chabahar Port development and foreseeing potential maritime cooperation involving Oman, Iran and India. They also discussed the state of Afghanistan and prevented speculation of any bias. 

Pakistan and Iran
Pakistan and Iran saw a separate progression of dialogue in this year's SCO Summit of 2022. Iran was granted permanent membership to the SCO by signing an MOU on 16 September. Pakistan pledged to remove regional terrorism from its land and focused on fighting climate change by asking for humanitarian aid and help from its member countries. Pakistan was hesitant to comment on its participation in next year's summit to be held in India.