As the SCO prepares to welcome India and Pakistan to the group during the upcoming Astana Summit, many are wondering whether the bloc has gotten too big for its own good. Next week’s gathering from 8-9 June will see the existing six members admit the two South Asian giants to their organization, including one which has over a billion people and by some estimates is even more populous than China. On the surface, everything is progressing smoothly and all sides are committed to win-win outcomes for everyone, but strip away the rhetoric and very serious contradictions begin to emerge.
India and Pakistan are heated rivals, and tensions have been on the upswing all across the past year as each side accuses the other of supporting terrorism. This isn’t anything new, but it takes on a qualitatively different character since both states will now be part of the same integrational grouping. Moreover, India and China aren’t on as friendly of a footing as they used to be either, with New Delhi adamantly opposed to Beijing’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, which of course includes the flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Indian military forces have also been posturing against China in the borderland region, including territories that Beijing claims are disputed.
Russia has spoken very highly about the prospects for Eurasian integration, and there are serious expectations in Moscow that India and Pakistan could use the SCO as a neutral forum for ironing out their disputes and maintaining the peace between them, however tense it may be but so long as it’s stable and predictable. There’s also the chance that Russia, as India’s traditional partner, and China, being Pakistan’s all-weather and comprehensive strategic ally, could work together in the framework of their own bilateral partnership to mitigate the risk of war between the two South Asian states. Additionally, Russia could also mediate between China and India to help keep the peace between them too.
There’s a chance that the admission of India and Pakistan to the SCO could, therefore, be a game-changing move in bringing stability to South Asia and integrating this part of the supercontinent to other regions, though it still can’t be discounted that this might be an overly optimistic assessment which isn’t taking into count the earlier contradictions that were discussed. In that case, allowing two fiercely competing parties into the same peaceful organization might end up prompting a paralyzing deadlock which defeats its entire purpose.
We discussed the issue in further depth with Tayyab Baloch, Islamabad-based regional security expert, writer at Geopolitica.Ru, and reporter at Abb Takk TV and Saikat Bhattacharyya, research scholar in economics at Jadavpur University in Kolkata.
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