India, China and The Potential of The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

According to Indian mainstream media, India did not endorse the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Chinese led Belt and Road Initiative in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit statement (Qingdao declaration), although all remaining seven members of the SCO bloc supported the project. This situation may create an economic and geostrategic isolation for India within the SCO bloc and apparently, it is not healthy for the bloc. Nonetheless, India had endorsed the summit’s declaration against terrorism in all forms and manifestations. Even Indian media said that Indian and Pakistani military would be trained together under the context of the SCO’s counter-terror military exercise, “Peace Mission 2018”. Therefore, India opposes CPEC in SCO but endorsed ‘Peace mission 2018’ exercise. According to Chinese perspective, the SCO aims to resolve concerning security issues with equal cooperation and is not aimed at merely serving the security interests of China and Russia.

India has been claiming that CPEC violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity since CPEC passes through disputed Azad Kashmir region, although China expressed that all territorial laws were respected and the dispute is an “internal matter” between India and Pakistan. Beijing continues to maintain that India and Pakistan should mitigate the Kashmir crisis by bilateral negotiations. It is clear that the regional tension and proxy conflicts between India and Pakistan have been hampering to the formation of wider connectivity projects between SCO countries and beyond.  This situation is well aligned with the US’s China containment policy in which the US wants total control over the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean to sustain its hegemony and deter Chinese geopolitical progress.


Therefore, the Indian policy has a visible double standard (or the so-called non-aligned strategy) in dealing with the US and China although many analysts believe that the US has a stronger influence than China in Indian regional politics and largely in the South Asian political economy. Some argue that Indian diplomatic strategies are being produced by the American and Israeli think tanks an that certain US-Israeli influence in policy formation also led India to spread the minority oppressing radical Hindutva ideology although the Ideology for development and boosting employment are more pressing. Consequently, India is now routinely experiencing communal and sectarian violence. The rapid upsurge of Hindutva followers indicates that the country is ideologically preparing itself to challenge Chinese styled socialism, Chinese values and Chinese geo-economic assertion in South Asia. In a lately published Indian express article reads that the 2018 training material for India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tells its cadres that China is a threat to India.


On the other hand, China has increased its South Asian diplomacy and geo-economic activities. Pakistan, Maldives, and Nepal seem very enthusiastic regarding Chinese development and infrastructural projects to their respective countries. Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Bangladesh are trying hard to balance between the two regional powers even though they are being allured by the Chinese geoeconomic promise of opportunities. If China pushes more prospects in South Asia, India may find herself in an isolated position in Indian Ocean region. The so-called satellite states which are still orbiting around India can jump into the Chinese orbit when the time is appropriate. Many analysts believe the transition from one orbit to another will not be smooth since there are several tension-increasing border disputes and proxy wars (both economic and military) flashpoints between India and China.


Recently, the Quad’s (US, Japan, India and Australia) senior officials met in Singapore. The Quad is notable for its concerns about growing Chinese power and influence in the region, nonetheless, India opposes Australia’s inclusion in Malabar naval drill. A recent official statement issued by the external affairs ministry said that India and Australia held a key meeting to discuss combating terrorism and its financing.  Hence, India is not fully enjoying unanimous feelings in respect of its Quad partners.

India is also looking for more diplomatic and economic engagement with Russia. As a cold war ally, India had Soviet influences inside its socio-political fabric.  The BRICS forum and SCO are two important blocs where India sees Russia as the most important and trusted partner. Even if India is concerned about “Chinese assertion”, the country thinks that Russia can play a pacifier’s role to mitigate the tension. Contrarily, right now Russia considers China is the most important and trusted partner in terms of geopolitics, geoeconomics, and geostrategies in order to shield herself from the waves of western sanctions. In recent years, Russia has increased its diplomatic and military relationship with Pakistan since Russia considers her the zipper of its Eurasian integration. Therefore, the Indian general concept of getting Russian help during a Sino-Indian conflict may become wishful thinking.

On the other hand, the US under President Donald Trump is running under a conservative economic policy in form of the trade war. Developing the domestic economy is America’s main focus. The US may not provide necessary support for boosting the Indian economy, but she will entice India to buy more western made arms and weapons. Subsequently, such procuremenst will support the US and western economy but it will increase the volume of animosity between India and China.


Security cooperation, economic cooperation, and cultural exchange are three main areas where SCO is prioritizing its activities. India desperately needs the first two of them.  She should think carefully and deprioritize dealings with the US and western powers which are situated thousands of kilometers away from its border and planted mines of conflicts and chaos all over Eurasian land mass. Also, India has the second biggest border with China of 3,488 kilometers and India cannot replace her “threatening” Chinese neighbor. It is suggested that India should not oppose the CPEC project and she should refrain from closing the door to the China envisioned Belt and Road initiative. Instead, India should welcome China’s win-win project with the necessary bargaining to make South Asia well connected for mutual development and prosperity. Otherwise, India may find herself isolated from the recent trend in Eurasian geoeconomics and tormented with domestic economic and political crises.


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