Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Emerging Geopolitics 

The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation – Bertrand Russell

Backdrop

Hundred and thirteen years ago, in 1904, Sir Halford J. Mackinder hypothesized that ‘whoever rules the Heartland, will rule the world’. He wrote this from a Western perspective, unaware that an Asian Century shall follow to test the hypothesis again. Non-incumbent(s) stand(s) lesser chance to rule Eurasian Heartland than either an incumbent power or a regional / an extra-regional coalition, especially if the latter look at it constructively and seemingly eschew the dominant realist paradigm’s zero-sum game of maximizing power at other(s) cost.

As the arch rival of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the erstwhile Soviet Union-led Warsaw Pact controlled most of the Heartland at the peak of Cold War in the 1970s. It however failed to rule in the true sense of Mackinder’s conceptualization. Former USSR’s economic and political system was its nemesis and despite occupying the huge landmass, it did not rule the hearts and minds of the nations bounded in Warsaw Pact’s unnatural politico-security union that did not reap the economic and other dividends.

The manifestation of the theory, ‘rule the Heartland and rule the world’, has become more complicated. This is because a century after Mackinder’s thesis, the region and its periphery (also stated as Rimland by the American professor of international relations, Nicholas Spykman) are now inhabited by five nuclear weapons powers. A physical occupation by an extra-regional power is thus incomprehensible. An external power or alliance would also find it impossible to control the territory through a direct strategy that involves use of force.

 

The 21st Century is often characterized as the Asian Century because it is fast becoming the economic pivot of the world and the continent possesses the hard power to defend the Heartland. The interests of states that form its regional sub-systems in political, economic, and sociocultural domains have to be realized by having an essential degree of practical openness and shared participation in regional processes, as the past conventional autarchic ways of geopolitics do not work any longer.

Economic initiatives like One Belt One Road (OBOR) and purely non-Western alliance, like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) mark an Asian Century, and have the potential to even realize more than what Mackinder theorized about ruling the Heartland. SCO was established on June 15, 2001, in Shanghai by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan. It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism. The Charter of the Organization was signed during the Saint Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in June 2002, and entered into force on 19 September 2003. Established as an internationally recognized and authoritative multilateral association, its goals are: ‘strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order’.

Currently, the SCO:

  • comprises eight member states namely Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and India;
  • counts four observer states, namely the Belarus, Iran, Afghanistan, and Mongolia; and
  • has six dialogue partners, namely Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka

By virtue of its incumbency and geoeconomic potential, SCO can not only strengthen the Heartland against external adversaries but also dominate the world. The Organization embodies an area much larger in size than Mackinder’s Heartland and erstwhile Warsaw Pact’s zone of influence, it does not sport any imperialistic ambitions and is potentially the avant-garde of the Asian Century.

This policy insight offers an assessment of SCO’s potential to collectively and positively shape the Heartland. The first part examines its geopolitics and the second traces the roots of SCO – its evolving agenda, Western perceptions, the collective and individual interests of SCO Member States, the direction that the Organization is taking – and lastly, the potential to influence the Heartland.

Geopolitics of Heartland

In 1904, Mackinder hypothesized that history was an enduring competition between powers in which a continental power would gain the ultimate victory. His theory was an anti-thesis of Alfred Thayer Mahan’s equally powerful dictum of the Nineteenth Century that whichever power rules the seas also rules the world.

Perhaps Mackinder was more right than Mahan because merely controlling the seas is an incomplete victory as humans can only inhabit land, which makes possession of the land quintessential for ruling seas. Despite its largest navy, America has always found it very difficult to gain foothold or retain its presence on foreign soils – Afghanistan and Vietnam are two examples. This is because Washington does not have the logistics to bridge and sustain the gaps between continental Americas and the Eurasian landmass that covers around 55,000,000 square kilometers (21,000,000 square miles) – around 36.2percent of the Earth’s total land mass, and is home to around 5 billion people, which is nearly 70 percent of the human population. Eurasia holds most of the world’s physical wealth, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil, and it accounts for about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources. History reveals that America possesses the destructive and disruptive powers, but not enough tools to occupy distant lands – at least not the geographical fortress called the Eurasian Heartland.

Mackinder reckons the Eurasian land mass as a natural fortress bounded by barriers such as:

  • Russia in the north-east;
  • Altai (Central and East Asia – on the confluence of Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan) in the East;
  • Tian Shan mountains (Central Asia – spreading into China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan);
  • Hindu Kush mountain ranges (South-Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran);
  • Zone between the Caspian Sea (its basin covers Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan) and the Black Sea in the west (Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine); and
  • Carpathian Mountains (spread along Central and Eastern Europe).

He termed this as the ‘Geographical Pivot of History’, whose Achilles’ Heel lies in the accessible lowlands flanked by Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea. Unlike Western Europe, this gigantic landmass is rich in resources and perhaps only paralleled by North American planes, which are resource rich and have never been foraged by the powers across the oceans that insulate the continent.

Contemporary Dimensions

The Heartland is geographically contiguous but has never been politically or economically united. It has been either pillaged from within or has invited external powers to moth-eat it. After the Soviet Union’s dissolution, it was only in 2001 that the possibility of such a union naturally emerged once the five states occupying this core territory decided to resolve their boundary issues. The Shanghai Five later expanded as the SCO, grew in its scope and membership, and now covers areas adjacent to the Heartland. Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were its founding members. With Pakistan and India’s full membership in 2017, the SCO territory now extends into Southern periphery of the Heartland and the Subcontinent connects it to the Indian Ocean. In the latter perspective, the so-called Heartland has transmuted into a portmanteau of Mackinder’s land and Mahan’s maritime theory, whose core thesis was that whoever commands the seas, rules the world.

If seen from geographical paradigm, SCO’s territory carries the potential of ruling the Heartland, provided its heavyweights – China, Russia, Pakistan, and India – are on the same side of the political page in order to ‘promote multilateralism and a community of shared destiny for mankind’. A regional union however does not mean that there is complete like mindedness – the British exit from the European Union and London and Paris keeping their own nuclear deterrents despite NATO’s security umbrella are cases in point. In SCO’s case, an earnest commitment to the ‘Shanghai spirit’ can be the driving force to compel the Members to respect their ‘mutual trust and benefit, equality, mutual consultation, cultural diversity, and joint development’.

SCO emerged as a dictate of geography. At the turn of 21st Century, the geography and the Century’s geopolitics are naturally gravitating towards Beijing, Moscow, and Islamabad into an alliance that is not military in nature. In this potentially powerful alliance, India appears as the only wildcard because it has given up its non-aligned status and has entered a strategic partnership with the United States, apparently to exploit the latter’s weakness to contain rising China. A regional alliance can unravel at its seams if one country plays the zero-sum game of containing another in partnership with an external power. Russia and China perhaps allowed India’s membership as a design to keep a door of Indian reconciliation open. It would be India’s choice to strengthen the SCO or work at cross purposes, and either become its Achilles’ Heel or exit to form an enduring Axis with the United States.

Time will tell if New Delhi will choose a win-win or win-lose approach in the SCO – whether it will opt for fortifying harmony amongst nations or fueling the ‘clash of civilizations’! The supposed American efforts to contain China and a resurgent Russia has forced it to partner with a land and naval power on Heartland’s southern rim – its underbelly. Despite its excellent trade and economic interdependencies, India’s relations with China and Russia shall take an awkward turn if it plays an active role in American containment strategy.

The Prospective Impacts of Evolving Strategic Partnerships in the Region

… how America ‘manages’ Eurasia is critical. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two ofthe world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map alsosuggests that controlling Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent.

The emerging Indo-U.S. relations cannot be analyzed in isolation. In this defining partnership, the United States needs India as a surrogate to serve its strategic interests in the Heartland as Washington is severely handicapped in expanding the insignificant foothold in the region. New Delhi provides that ideal bond because it is a natural bonding ground between Indian and Pacific Ocean and offers the toehold on the Eurasian plate. However, Himalayan ranges are a formidable barrier to that ambition and that is where Pakistan’s critical role emerges. Pakistan is the shortest land-bridge to the landlocked parts of the Heartland through Afghanistan. Its Balochistan province is the Golden Gate to the strategic access. Like the Eurasian powers need Pakistani bridge to connect to the Indian Ocean, the U.S. needs it to overcome its geographical weakness as a maritime power. American presence in Afghanistan and its interest of bringing peace and sustainable development to the country critically depend on the former’s relations with Pakistan. The U.S. and Afghanistan have to learn from the history of last two decades. In order to move forward, understanding Pakistani approach and working synergistically with Islamabad is key to stabilizing the troubled country. Any country that does not share border and the collective ideology of Afghan people can only invest money and work as a spoiler, but cannot bring lasting peace.

Furthermore, the Indo-U.S. strategic axis tends to sidestep regional actors and ignore geopolitical expediencies. Pakistan has twice offered its land bridge to the U.S. in the past for two of its self-created wars – during the Cold War to contain former Soviet Union; and to fight the so-called war against terrorism emanating from a post-Cold War Afghanistan. If again it were to become a jump-off point to contain China’s rise, Washington would not have entered a ‘unique’ relationship with New Delhi. Sino-Pakistan relations are too strategic for Islamabad to trade it with instable maneuvers of an off-shore power. The country has paid a heavier price in franchising its territory to the United States than what it has gained in tangible terms. In the wake of Indo-U.S. emerging axis to contain China and resurgent Russia, Pakistan has continuously been cautioning both of the potential harmful effects of such an approach towards the region. In a stark warning and rebuff, Pakistan gave a public rejoinder to the recent U.S.-India Joint Statement issued in June 2017, that:

‘Regrettably, those who seek to appropriate a leadership role in the fight against terror are themselves responsible for much of the terror unleashed in recent years in Pakistan. India had supported the Tehreek-e-Taliban as a proxy against Pakistan from across the border. India’s culpability in creating this further source of regional insecurity cannot be ignored’.

The U.S. has apparently partnered with India because that is the ‘next best option’ to access the Heartland through Southern sea-ward rim. The U.S. cannot be blamed for placing its bet on India because it is the only jump off point for the American interests in the region and to franchise net security in Indian Ocean. Likewise, Mackinder could not be blamed for misplacing Heartland’s center of gravity in the lowlands flanked by Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea because he was looking at it from the British vantage point in the 20th Century – the realities have changed in the 21st Century. For American perspective, the strip within the Rimland’s resource rich part in Iran’s Sistan and Pakistan’s Balochistan provinces is the base that Washington would ideally need to access the Heartland. A possible American offset strategy would be to gain access to the Heartland through the narrow strip of Balochistan via Afghanistan, for which Washington shall have to make trade-offs with Pakistani neighbors to the East and West. New Delhi’s guarantee to secure its tail in Indian Ocean is the apparent insurance policy to sustain that presence. There is however a need of inclusively pragmatic policies by the American strategists.

SCO’s Strengths and Vulnerabilities

In the geopolitical order of 21st Century, Heartland’s southern rim shall play a pivotal role. If it can pull off regionalism, SCO stands a better chance to tilt the balance of power in its favor and save the Heartland from encroachment from the South. The Organization has been observed to evolve from being a ‘security-only organization’ into a ‘multi-functional group’ that focuses on political and economic cooperation. Moreover, its expansion to the Eurasian belt is expected to make it more relevant to the global affairs, and even strong enough to challenge Washington’s interests. Mackinder’s theory was put to test in Second World War, and will be tested again on the crucible of the SCO, which shall make it the locus of power and the avant-garde of the Asian Century. The SCO is formidable in its potential because after Pakistan and India’s inclusion, it now represents 45 percent of the world’s population and accounts for 25 percent of the world’s GDP.

The Organization has drawn skepticism particularly from Western media. It has been considered an ‘emergent anti-NATO coalition’, ‘an OPEC with bombs’, and a military and economic alliance ‘to be reckoned with’. It is even being branded as the ‘NATO of the East’. The behavior of Member States is under scrutiny too. For instance, Uzbekistan listened to the SCO’s call and evicted Karshi-Khanabad American Air Base in 2005, which the U.S. had leased since 2001. If the SCO expands as security-centered organization or a multi-functional group that includes political and economic collaboration, it will automatically draw NATO as its adversary and give latter a lease of life and the raison d’être.

The world powers would not be blind to the SCO’s potential as an organization that could actually manifest Mackinder’s Heartland theory. If Russia and China are driving the SCO into that overarching geopolitical construct, it runs contrary to American interests in Eurasia and it will take measures that the idea is either a still born or there are enough arrows in Western quiver to salami slice such a grand design.

The United States has, however, a huge disadvantage in gaining access to the Heartland – Russia and China sit on this land mass. Being a maritime power, the United States commands the seas but not the Eurasian landmass. That is why by sitting in Afghanistan and partnering with India, Eastern European States, and Far-Eastern countries is its best bet to contain a resurgent Russia and rising China. The American option of joining the group for collective gains will be too idealistic but is not an impossibility in the wake of present era of competitive-cooperative (military-economic) relations between nation states.

The Western strategy to contain China and Russia is compelling the two into an alliance, in which their bilateral frictions have naturally begun taking backseat. Amongst the SCO’s members, India is the only State on which the U.S. is hedging to sow discord and weaken it.  It is in Sino-Russian joint interest to reduce American influence in Eurasia, especially Afghanistan. The SCO does not appear anti-U.S. in its mandate but the likelihood of it butting heads with Washington seems unavoidable.

The SCO’s strength is that it sits on Eurasian landmass and it can also strain American maritime ascendancy in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, especially if India decides to ultimately place its eggs in the regional basket. This is perhaps the reason that Washington considers Eurasia and its partnership with India of paramount importance, and has gone out of the way to support colored revolutions and has invested heavily in Indians during the Bush and Obama Administration. The joint statement issued on Modi’s recent visit to Washington D.C. so far reveals that the Trump Administration will follow the policies of its predecessors. The extent of American hospitality towards India has been so vast that New Delhi has given up its policy of non-alignment and despite its vast economic relations with Moscow, some chinks are visible in the armor of their relationship.

In the globalized world of today, no nation can reach self-sufficiency to the extent of achieving economic, political, and security expediency. Even Mackinder had observed that once presenting his Heartland theory, that ‘the actual balance of political power at any given time is, of course, the product, on the other hand, of geographical condition, both economic and strategic, and, on the other hand, of the relative number, virility, equipment, and organization of the competing peoples’.

SCO members’ shared and important agenda of making themselves stronger by working together will give the organization an internal strength that is necessary if it is to thrive and become geopolitically significant. The seeds for such cooperation were sown in its Moscow Summit in 2003, once the members agreed to fulfil a program of multilateral trade and economic cooperation by 2020. The program envisaged 127 joint constructions of hydroelectric plants, upgrading highways, laying out fiber-optic communications networks, hydrocarbons exploration and pipeline construction.

China had then shown consent to issue low-interest line of credit for USD 900 million for the initial projects and to train 1500 engineers and experts from the Central Asian States, while Russia had proposed the investment plans for SCO as joint ventures.

The SCO’s potential is a residue of a key geopolitical fact, i.e. its members cannot maximize their individual or collective powers unless they overcome their bilateral problems and work together. Economic cooperation can provide the foremost incentive to dampen pugnacity amongst the member states of the SCO. This can be put into practice by measures such as forming Eurasian transportation corridors. These are manifest in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

China launched BRI connects Heartland’s underbelly, and Indian and Pacific Ocean regions into unprecedented six overland and sea-based economic corridors that will surpass British Empire’s power and influence in comparison. The SCO’s expansion in 2017 is timed with BRI and is set to transform the global economic landscape. Pakistan lies at the heart of the initiative, as it is diligently implementing the CPEC. These mega projects will benefit the entire SCO community and beyond.

If the Chinese initiative pulls off, the Heartland will become the economic basket of the World Island and the geo-economic and geopolitical power could shift from West to East. Beijing had pragmatically insisted in keeping the SCO non-military in outlook and even offered the U.S. and the West stakes in this initiative.

Russia is busy trying to revive its economy and it is likely to benefit from BRI, improving its economic muscle. Pakistan’s role in BRI has unsettled India and is also a source of ‘silent’ American concern. Shall India choose to rely on an off-shore-maritime power that has a history of changing allies or cooperate regionally is difficult to ascertain because reading complex Indian strategic thought process is one of the most difficult phenomenon to discern and base counter strategies on.

The SCO harbors no counterbalance strategy against the United States, despite its focus on security issues, military exercises, and joint counterterrorism and counternarcotic efforts.

However, forays into its periphery can change the Organization’s character. The Organization has a limited reach in terms of economic strength and unified military power but has huge potential to grow.

The leadership has avoided controversy and have displayed consensus over the need to fight terrorism, cooperate in common economic development, and have shown reluctant interest in solving regional conflicts through peaceful means – although the latter can potentially make it another SAARC.

Recently, counter-terrorism has taken salience and a Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) was established. Headquartered in Tashkent, RATS SCO is a permanent organ of the Organization and serves to promote mutual cooperation against the ‘three evil forces’ of terrorism, separatism, and extremism. With its priority areas identified, RATS has already achieved concrete results, for instance, establishment of border defense mechanisms under its framework; provision of intelligence information on the use of internet by terrorist groups in the region; and a database of information of fighters participating in armed conflict in Syria and other areas.

In the 2017 Summit at Astana, the SCO signaled its key interest on diverse strategic issues. The member states:

 

  • advocated strict adherence to the goals and principles of the UN Charter, primarily, the equality and sovereignty of states, non-interference in internal affairs, mutual respect for territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, non-aggression, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-use of force or threat of force, and other internationally recognized norms of international law designed to maintain peace and security, to develop cooperation between states, to strengthen independence, and to ensure the right to determine one’s own future and paths of political, socioeconomic and cultural development;

 

  • adopted the Statement on Joint Counteraction to International Terrorism with an intent to further promote the activities of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure in the interests of ensuring security within the Organization’s space in accordance with its tasks and functions;

 

  • reaffirmed that the unilateral and unrestricted build-up of missile defense systems by one state or a group of states, is detrimental to international and regional security and stability;

 

  • called for an early entry into force of the Protocol on Security Guarantees to the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty for all its signatories which will make a significant contribution to ensuring regional security and strengthening the global non-proliferation regime;

 

  • noted the importance of keeping outer space free of weapons in order to ensure equal and indivisible security for all and to maintain global stability;

 

  • supported efforts and initiatives designed to maintain and comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention, enhancing the credibility of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as well as strengthening the regime provided for by the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention;

 

  • undertook to continue cooperation in the areas of disarmament and arms control, the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and the political and diplomatic settlement of regional challenges to non-proliferation regimes;

 

  • supported strict observance of Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Both Pakistan and India have their individual perspectives on these issues and it would be noteworthy to see how these play in 2018 SCO Summit in China where China will take over the Organization’s rotating presidency.

 

  • will do all they can to bolster peace and stability and promote trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian ties in the SCO in line with the SCO Development Strategy Towards 2025 and the 2016-2020 Plan of Action for its implementation.

 

The SCO members signed ten other agreements in addition to the Astana Declaration. These include a convention on combating extremism and a declaration on joint fight against international terrorism.

The territorial disputes of SCO members can seriously undermine the organization’s collective potential. Pakistan-India perennial dispute over Kashmir is a flashpoint. Likewise, China considers Russian far-eastern parts as its territory and if the two Asian giants dwell on their disputes, the SCO shall be a stillbirth. Moreover, the expected inclusion of Iran in the next summit, without formally normalizing its global stature, remains a matter of concern. These political vulnerabilities can be exploited, by playing one power against the other. A silver lining lies in China’s observance of strategic patience in its relations with the United States, and its desire to avoid conflict at all costs. This will also have a sobering effect on Russian ascorbic behavior in dealing with Washington.

As briefly alluded above, India is the SCO’s wild card. In the 2006 SCO Summit, New Delhi scaled down its participation while other SCO members and observer countries sent their Heads of State. This decision was perhaps a conscious choice to play a balancing act between Russia and the U.S. because New Delhi was entering a strategic partnership with Washington and did not want to affect that long-term design.

Today, however, Indian economic motives preside in the full membership of the SCO and would not undermine its partnership with the U.S – at least till it has not developed the military and potential that it can afford to jettison American fuel tanks. Indian membership of the SCO raises it geo-strategic status and would allow it to tap Central Asia’s energy market, provided New Delhi mends its fences with Pakistan, as the country offers critical overland routes and connectivity for trade and energy transactions intra regionally and inter regionally. China, being the founding member of the SCO, dismissed apprehensions that differences of the two significant countries could disrupt the unity of the group as its charter does not allow members to bring forth their mutual hostility.

Pakistan views membership of the SCO as a measure to strengthen its cooperation with the member states which will effectively contribute to regional peace, stability and development, and help it play a more effective role for regional cooperation against terrorism and extremism. Cooperation in energy and transport sectors will promote Pakistan as a regional trade corridor. Pakistan completely shares Chinese vision of non-interference, shared destinies and peaceful rise. In the June 2017 Astana Summit, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signaled that: “Instead of talking about counterweights and containment, let us create shared spaces for all”.

Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan shall also define the future of SCO because Kabul conveniently blames the terrorist attacks in the country on Pakistan. During the Astana Summit, both countries displayed some reconciliation and agreed to use Quadrilateral Coordination Group mechanism as well as bilateral channels to undertake specific actions against terror groups and to evolve a mechanism to monitor and verify such actions.

Conclusion

In its outreach, the SCO is transcontinental and serve as a strong link between the Asia-Pacific, East Asia, West Asia and the Atlantic region. Although SCO has the potential to influence the Heartland and shape the geopolitics of world island, the behavior of member states would enable the organization to live up to that promise. Much will depend on how the members overcome their discontents and deal collectively with external overloads. This shift in global center of power shall take time for SCO to take a lead in becoming the cornerstone of global politics and economics.

The SCO has taken a wise choice to only deal with major issues on strategic level, leaving it to member nations to sort out their bilateral issues and details. This has been done to deal with collective Eurasian security and economic issues rather than face impasse over perennial bilateral issues. Being the most powerful members, China and Russia have chaperoned SCO’s agenda in a manner that it does not turn into a impractical group.

SCO’s potential to influence the Heartland shall also depend on how India and Pakistan’s bilateral relations and Indian strategic partnership with the United States pans out. The organization should have mechanisms to avoid inheriting the politics of SAARC, which is dogged by impasse in India-Pakistan relations.

The U.S.-India axis would be a serious impediment to the SCO’s development. It is widely assumed that both powers are partnering to contain China. Likewise, despite the economic cooperation with Moscow, New Delhi’s relations with (it) latter will come at odds with its partnership with America that seeks to contain resurgent Russia. The snags are too fundamental to be glossed over in the SCO and will become pronounced if Bharat does not maintain balance. India is emerging as the swing state and the balance of power shall momentarily shift whichever side New Delhi decides to settle. As an offset strategy, both Russia and the U.S. would try to keep India on their side, something that New Delhi shall exploit by playing one against the other.

The SCO can no longer be dismissed as a talk shop, because it has grown in size and its members have not been very kind to American presence in the region. If the SCO continues developing in terms of joint economic projects and security initiatives, it would be difficult to rule out that it just might become a new collective power center.

 

by Atia Ali Kazmi

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