By Daniel Urchick
JUNE 28, 2016
The member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) cover more than three-fifths of Eurasia and are home to a quarter of the world’s population. SCO membership, as well as observer and dialogue partner status, must go through a unanimous voting mechanism to be successful. Full members can exploit the SCO’s consensus-based decision-making to veto SCO activities like widening membership, which they do by calling for further studies. This fickle expansion system has left the organization at near continuous loggerheads on the issue of India and Pakistan for the past several years. The Central Asian states have feared having their power diluted by growing numbers, and China in particular has largely opposed the dual expansion plan as well, fearing it would move the group beyond its manageable control. Despite these misgivings, both India and Pakistan will be one more step closer to full membership when the accession procedure is expected to take place at the June 23-24, 2016 SCO summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
India’s primary interest in the organization appears to be the anti-terror component. India has been plagued by terrorist attacks, from homegrown Islamic terror groups to communist-Maoist Naxalites. India claims many attacks come from alleged Pakistani state-sponsored groups, a potential point of contradiction for Pakistan and the SCO’s policies. The SCO’s regional anti-terrorism structure (RATS) is an enticing security mechanism for a country facing a large and ever growing terror threat. However, the SCO has demonstrated that it is an organization committed to not only fighting the traditional Western concept of terrorism but also to anti-revolution and pro-government intervention in insurrections, insurgency and civil war. India has little to gain from supporting these more implicit missions and could not be counted on in China’s efforts to build a coalition should it ever choose to. Even if India were to participate in such operations, it is not likely they would perform well under Chinese leadership (assuming China even took the lead) with the current levels of antagonism.