Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) | IAS Target IAS Target

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance. The original five nations, with the exclusion of Uzbekistan, were previously members of the Shanghai Five group, created on 26 April 1996. Later Uzbekistan joined, and recently India and Pakistan also joined SCO in 2017 at Asthana, Kazakhastan. The SCO is widely known as the "alliance of the East", due to its rising centrality in Asia-Pacific and has been a primary security pillar of the region. It is the largest regional organization 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 is a permanent intergovernmental international organization.

Creation June 2001
Entered into force 2003
Headquarters Beijing, China
Official language Chinese and Russian
Founding Members China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Observer states Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.

SCO observer status in the General Assembly and relationship with other grouping commonwealth, ASEAN etc

Facts about SCO

  • The SCO covers 40%of the global population, nearly 20% of the global GDP and 22% of the world’s land mass. SCO is seen as counterweight to the NATO.
  • The SCO has a strategically important role in Asia due to its geographical significance - this enables it to control the Central Asia and limit the American influence in region.


The Heads of State Council (HSC) It is the utmost decision-making body in the SCO. It meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organization
Heads of Government Council Approves the budget, considers and decides upon issues related economic spheres of interaction within SCO.
Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs Considers issues related to day-to-day activities.
Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) Established to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism
SCO Secretariat Beijing

Activities of SCO

  • Cooperation on security
  • Military activities
  • Economic cooperation
  • Cultural cooperation

The SCO’s main goals are:

  • strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states and making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region
  • promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research, technology and culture, as well as focus in transport, tourism, environmental protection, education, energy, and other areas;
  • moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.

Defence relationship

  • Military exercises are also regularly conducted among members to promote cooperation and coordination against terrorism and other external threats,
  • To maintain regional peace and stability
  • SCO is the answer of NATO of western bloc (as mention by many academicians)

Opportunities for India to joining SCO

  • Will strengthen India’s position in Central Asia. SCO provides direct access to Central Asia – overcoming the main hindrance in flourishing of trade between India and Central Asia. SCO acts as an alternative route to Central Asia.
  • Greater access to major gas and oil exploration projects in Central Asia. Talks on the construction of stalled pipelines like:
    • the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline;
    • IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline can get a push through the SCO.
  • Through the SCO, India can also work on anti-drug trafficking and small arms proliferation.
  • Greater cooperation in dealing with terrorism as well as on issues relating to security and defence in the region.
  • Platform for India to engage Pakistan in a wider regional setting & help boost anti-terrorism cooperation
  • Helps India fulfill its target of playing an active role in its extended neighbourhood as well as checking the ever growing influence of China in Eurasia.

Concerns of India

  • Presence of both India and Pakistan may affect SCO and may become another platform for fight
  • On the issue of terrorism China and India have different attitude vis a vis Pakistan, hence SCO membership might not help India to raise voice on terrorism.
  • China would use the SCO as a vehicle to promote its massive connectivity, infrastructure, funding project and India may not get same leverage as china with respect to other grouping members
  • The vision of SCO shared by Russia and China involves a ‘new order’, apparently aimed at the West. As a result, the SCO has been often called the “Anti-NATO”, meant to counterbalance U.S. and Europe power structures. So India need to walk on tight rope by balancing bonhomie with East and west.

Criticisms of SCO

It is allegation repeatedly that it is used by member states to safeguard each other from international criticism regarding human rights violations.