GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 710, 9 July 2023

The SCO Summit and the Delhi Declaration: The Focus on Digital Security and Iran’s Entry
Prerana P 

What happened?
On 4 July, India hosted the Shanghai Cooperation (SCO) Summit online. The summit focused on "Towards a Secure SCO." India's AI-based language platform "Bashini" was used during the summit to bridge the language barriers. The leaders adopted two thematic joint statements, one focused on cooperation in countering radicalization, which leads to extremism and terrorism and the other focused on collaboration in digital transformation. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his opening remarks, stated: "The main focus of SCO should be on the benefits and aspirations of Central Asian nations…SCO members should understand each other's needs and sensitivities." A significant outcome of the SCO summit was the New Delhi Declaration. Click here for the New Delhi Declaration of the Council of Heads of State of Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his gratitude towards the member states for their support and declared his support toward the New Delhi Declaration. He further added that he firmly stands against the Western sanctions and "provocation." Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif underlined,the im ortance of condemning terrorism and any manifestations, and said:  "Similarly, religious minorities should never be demonized in the pursuit of domestic, political agendas." The Chinese President called for "regional peace", and emphasized: "We must be highly vigilant against external attempts to foment a new Cold War or camp-based confrontation in our region." Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev highlighted the need to enhance energy cooperation. Belarusian President Lukashenko pointed out: "Such challenges and threats as destructive cyberattacks, data theft, and targeted dissemination of fake news in the information space are becoming increasingly relevant among the member states." 

What is the background?
First, the focus on terrorism and protecting territorial integrity. The member states reaffirmed their commitment to fighting terrorism, separatism, and extremism. India has declined to sign the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the SCO Economic Development Strategy due to trade and territorial integrity concerns. India opposes the BRI because the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through Jammu and Kashmir, and violates India's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The declaration also highlighted the importance of countering the use of information, communication technologies for criminal purposes, joint efforts against illicit drug trafficking, and cooperation in nuclear disarmament. The SCO members called for keeping outer space weapon-free, adhering to international biological and chemical weapons conventions.

Second, the focus on energy and digital security. The member states emphasized the role of digital transformation in achieving global, inclusive, and sustainable growth. They highlighted the potential of digital technologies to address various issues in sectors such as economics, health, and education. The COVID-19 pandemic enhanced the development of digital ecosystems, opening up new possibilities and growth avenues. India's Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) proposal was encouraged by all the member states to promote fair competition, democratize technology and elevate inclusive digital growth. India will soon host the Annual Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence. The summit emphasized the importance of developing secure and reliable digital infrastructure, promoting digital literacy, and ensuring affordable access to digital services. 

Third, Iran's entry. It elevates trade developments in North-South Transport Corridor, which connects South Asia with Europe through Central Asia. It further stimulates economic trade, including petrochemicals, automobiles and trade investments. Iran holds significant oil and natural gas reserves that could enhance regional energy demands and cooperation.

What does it mean?
First, the impact of the New Delhi Declaration. The New Delhi Declaration strengthens the commitment of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism. It promotes enhanced cooperation through joint efforts to disrupt terror financing, eliminate safe havens, and counter-radicalization. 

Second, the declaration also emphasizes cooperation in digital transformation to leverage its potential for inclusive growth. It addresses challenges such as cybercrime, drug trafficking, and nuclear disarmament, promoting joint actions and collaboration. Overall, the declaration fosters greater cooperation, coordination, and a shared commitment among SCO members to address security challenges, advance digitalization, and tackle shared concerns for a more secure and prosperous region.

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