Source: Global Times
The 20th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is set to be held virtually on Tuesday, and it is widely expected to focus on discussions about the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic and economic cooperation in the post-COVID-19 era.
While a lot of attention has been concentrated on whether the top leaders of China and India would resolve their differences under this multilateral mechanism, the meeting may also serve as sign of whether India can further be integrated into the SCO three years after joining the organization.
If India can put aside its political differences with some member states and promote economic exchanges within the multilateral framework, there will still be considerable room for economic cooperation between India and other SCO member states, which may also ease concerns over challenges faced by the organization after its membership expansion.
The SCO was founded in 2001 as a security mechanism aimed at dealing with regional governance and geopolitical problems, but in recent years, the SCO has put a lot of emphasis on the promotion of economic and trade cooperation among member states. Especially after it expanded its membership to include India and Pakistan in June 2017, there has been great interest and attention as to the role that the new member states play in the SCO and the opportunities they may enjoy.
In the post-epidemic era, whether anti-epidemic and economic cooperation could be the starting point of enhanced connections between India and other SCO member states is of great significance not only to the SCO, but also to India.
While the SCO needs to gain the consensus of its member states to push forward initiatives, India also needs to leverage the multilateral organization to further expand the potential for its economic and trade cooperation with other countries.
The Indian economy is under great pressure because of the epidemic. Getting out of its predicament requires not only its own efforts but also a helping hand from the outside world.
The SCO is one of the few regional multilateral mechanisms India has joined, with the combined GDP of its member states exceeding $16 trillion after the 2017 expansion, representing a huge regional market. That’s a starting point for India to integrate into the regional trade network.
It is the common wish of SCO states to deepen cooperation in the post-epidemic era to speed up the recovery from the economic impact. Any initiative to promote industry chain collaboration or trade connectivity may need the consensus of all member states.
While India has always been cautious in backing such initiatives, it is hoped that this time the country could put aside many geopolitical concerns to jointly participate in the economic and trade cooperation efforts.