Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO): A Comprehensive Exploration of Its Evolution, Structures, and Global Impact

Foreign Policy, good governance, International Relations, SCO, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, World politics

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) stands as a multifaceted alliance, navigating the intricate intersections of politics, economics, and military affairs in the Eurasian region. This detailed examination delves into the historical origins, membership dynamics, key organizational structures, geopolitical significance, recent developments, and collaborative endeavors, providing a comprehensive understanding of the SCO’s role in shaping the regional and global landscape.

Historical Evolution and Foundation:

The roots of the SCO can be traced back to the Shanghai Five group, formed in 1996 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. The formal decision to establish the SCO was announced on June 15, 2001, during the 1st Summit in Shanghai, China. The signing of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter in June 2002 solidified its organizational framework, officially entering into force on September 19, 2003.

Membership Dynamics:

Originally comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, the SCO underwent significant expansion. India and Pakistan became full members in June 2017, followed by Iran in 2021 and Belarus in 2022. The inclusion of dialogue partners and observer states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, the Maldives, the UAE, Kuwait, and Myanmar, amplifies the SCO’s collaborative network.

Key Organizational Structures:

The SCO operates through a well-defined set of structures, with the Council of Heads of State serving as the apex decision-making body. The SCO Secretariat, headquartered in Beijing, assumes the role of the main permanent executive body. Its working languages, Chinese and Russian, reflect the diverse linguistic landscape of member nations.

Objectives and Functions:

The SCO’s objectives are broad-ranging, encompassing the strengthening of mutual trust, promotion of effective cooperation in diverse domains, maintenance of regional peace and security, and the establishment of a fair and rational international order. Often considered the “alliance of the East,” the SCO acts as a counterbalance to NATO, contributing to geopolitical equilibrium.

Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS):

The SCO’s commitment to combating terrorism, separatism, and extremism is embodied in the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS). Headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, RATS facilitates cooperation among member states in addressing shared concerns related to security, cyberwarfare, crime, and drug trafficking.

Outreach and Collaborative Efforts:

The SCO’s outreach sessions, such as those with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), exemplify collaborative efforts to address shared challenges. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is an intergovernmental military alliance comprising selected post-Soviet states, established in 2002. Its roots can be traced back to the Collective Security Treaty of 1992, also known as the Tashkent Treaty. The organization’s headquarters are situated in Moscow, Russia.

In 2004, the CSTO gained observer status in the United Nations General Assembly. As outlined in Article 3 of its Charter, the CSTO aims to strengthen peace, international and regional security, and stability, with a collective commitment to protecting the independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of its member states.

The organization adheres to certain guiding principles, articulated in its charter. These principles include a preference for political means over military actions, a strict adherence to independence, voluntary participation, equal rights and obligations for member states, and a commitment to non-interference in the national affairs falling within the jurisdiction of member states.

The CSTO has six member states, namely Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.

22nd SCO Summit 2022 –

The 22nd Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in 2022 took place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, resulting in the signing of the Samarkand Declaration by member states. Key highlights of the summit include:

  • The Samarkand Declaration emphasized a commitment to resolving differences through peaceful dialogue and consultation.
  • Member countries stressed the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, equality, mutual benefit, non-interference in internal affairs, and a commitment to non-use or threat of force as essential for sustainable international relations.
  • There were discussions about developing common principles to create a unified list of prohibited terrorist, separatist, and extremist organizations within SCO member states.
  • India urged member states to grant each other full transit rights to enhance connectivity and establish reliable supply chains in the region.
  • The summit addressed the challenge of food security, with India highlighting efforts to popularize millets. India proposed the SCO’s involvement in marking 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the creation of a new SCO working group on traditional medicines, aligning with India’s initiatives in traditional medicine, as demonstrated by the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicines in Gujarat.
  • Varanasi was nominated as the first-ever SCO Tourism and Cultural Capital for 2022-2023, aiming to promote tourism, cultural exchanges, and humanitarian ties between India and other SCO member countries.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping urged cooperation among SCO members, including Russia and India, to prevent foreign powers from destabilizing their countries through “colour revolutions.” These revolutions refer to uprisings, often involving large-scale street mobilization, demanding free elections or regime change. Moscow and Beijing have criticized these movements, alleging foreign orchestration for geopolitical interests.

The summit marked India’s takeover of the SCO Presidency for 2023 and showcased discussions on various regional issues and cooperation initiatives.

Recent Developments and Global Relevance:

The 2023 Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit took place in Goa, India, during India’s presidency of the organization. This annual gathering discussed various regional and global issues, emphasizing multilateral cooperation within the SCO framework. The theme of the 2023 Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit, introduced by Prime Minister Modi in 2018, is “Advancing a SECURE SCO.” The acronym SECURE encompasses the key aspects of the summit’s agenda, representing Security, Economy and Trade, Connectivity, Unity, Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and Environment.

During the summit, External Affairs Minister Dr. Jaishankar highlighted the significance of the meeting, providing an opportunity to assess the state of multilateral cooperation within the SCO and address regional and global challenges. Notably, this summit marked a historic moment, as it was the first time in 12 years that a Foreign Minister of Pakistan visited an international forum held in India. While speculation arose about a potential thaw in relations between Pakistan and India, both Dr. Jaishankar and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari denied the possibility of bilateral talks at this juncture.

The SCO Foreign Ministers used the occasion to evaluate the status of decisions that would be presented for approval at the upcoming SCO Summit in July. This meeting aimed to facilitate discussions on multilateral cooperation to address regional and geopolitical issues, underscoring the SCO’s role in fostering dialogue and collaboration among member nations.

The presidency of the SCO for the forthcoming period is handed over to the Republic of Kazakhstan. The next meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State will be held in 2024 in the Republic of Kazakhstan.


The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation stands as a dynamic force, continually adapting to the complex geopolitical dynamics of the Eurasian region. Its commitment to cooperation, security, and a new international order positions the SCO as a key player in shaping the destiny of the participating nations. As the organization expands its influence and collaborative efforts, it becomes a pivotal actor in addressing global challenges and fostering stability across borders.

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