Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Samarkand SCO: Can India straddle West and East?

Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Samarkand SCO: Can India straddle West and East?

In this episode of Worldview, Suhasini Haidar breaks down the impact of PM Modi’s SCO meetings on its ties with the West and New Delhi’s art of all alignment.

Uzbekistan, historically the crossroad of different Silk roads, is today the venue of the Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended with a host of leaders who are regional strongmen. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined the 8-member SCO group- 4 central Asian countries, China, Russia, India and Pakistan for a summit of many firsts:

1. The first in person summit in 3 years, since the Covid pandemic broke

2. The first such conference that Putin has attended since the war in Ukraine

3. The first time that India was handed the baton- to host SCO in 2023

4. The first summit Iran was inducted- and will be a full member from next year. Belarus put on membership track too

5. The first time Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif attended, in the first such visit since the flood situation in his country that has left 1400 people dead and millions marooned.

The SCO had 2 sets of takeaways for India- multilateral and bilaterally


1. Terrorism: an agreement on building a consolidated list of terrorist entities in SCO region

2. Climate change: Joint statement on tackling climate change

3. Agreement on Action plan for 2023-27 on Treaty on Long-Term Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation

4. India to chair a joint working group on innovation – startups

5. Varanasi as cultural capital: Decision of the Council of Heads of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States on declaring Varanasi, Republic of India, as the Tourist and Cultural Capital of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2022-2023.

6. Induction of Iran and agreement on Belarus as members

7. Dialogue Partner status for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and agreement on Maldives Myanmar, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE


1. Russian President Vladimir Putin: PM Modi stressed that the era of war is over, and discussed the Ukraine conflict with President Putin, who said he understood India’s concerns

2. Iran President Ebrahim Raisi: Chabahar and Energy ties

3. Turkey President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan: After long tensions over Turkey’s stand on Jammu Kashmir, discussed bilateral trade and tourism growth

4. Uzbekistan President Shovkat Mirziyoyev: Discussed SCO, trade, IT, connectivity through Chabahar

What’s the downside with the SCO?

1. All alignment means trying to have your feet in different boats

2. Annoying Western partners- US, EU, The Quad

3. Standing shoulder to shoulder with dictators— vs coalition of democracies

4. Sanctioned countries in the grouping including Russia, Iran, Belarus, China- could signal problems down the road

5. Inbuilt rivalries in the SCO: India and China, India and Pakistan, within Central Asian countries

At the summit PM Modi didn’t meet Xi or Sharif- he came late and skipped dinner, photo ops, and avoided eye contact during 2 photos- the tensions almost overshadowing the conference

6. Talk on Terrorism, but no walk: same day as the SCO summit China again blocked a proposal to designate 26/11 suspect Sajid Mir, and has also blocked India and US moves to designate Rauf Asghar and Abdur Rahman Makki

In an interview to The Hindu, Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto said that he believes Masood Azhar is now in Afghanistan, also that Sharif and Modi had not met at the Summit, that Pakistan had not asked India for assistance during the flood, and even cast a doubt over Pakistan’s participation at the SCO in India next year.

While political differences, territorial boundaries and sovereignty issues can’t be resolved with any one summit or grouping, it is possible that trade, energy, connectivity, people to people ties could revive and re-establish the power of common geography and shared boundaries. From the team at WV thanks for watching!

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