There is a deeply held understanding and deep appreciation among the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on ways to deal with terrorism irrespective of what a particular country does, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said on Thursday. Responding to a question on Pakistan’s involvement in harbouring cross-border terrorism, despite being a member of the SCO, Foreign Secretary said, “There are multiple ways to look at how the different countries assess and look at the challenges of terrorism in the regions. And with Pakistan and its link with the challenge of terrorism in the region, if you look at the history of terrorism within the framework of SCO, you will find that both the substance of the discussion and various structures of the SCO has evolved over the years.”
“And now irrespective of what particular country does on the problem of terrorism, there is a deeply held understanding and deep appreciation within the SCO countries of what the nature of this terrorism is, where this problem comes from, and most importantly the need for SCO countries on their own and also for the SCO structures including in particular Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) to come together and form ways for practical cooperation,” he added. SCO’s RATS, based in Tashkent, is a permanent body of the grouping for countering terrorism, extremism, and separatism in the Eurasian region. India is the current chair of the executive council of SCO RATS and will be hosting the SCO RATS council meeting this October.
“We have been focusing on this strongly since we took the chairship of the executive council of RATS in October last year. The SCO RATS structure has also decided towards creating a unified register of terrorists and extremist organisations whose activities are prohibited on the territories of the SCO member countries within SCO RATS,” Foreign Secretary said. “There is the question of databases which this particular problem involves and RATS as a body is particularly working to develop a sharper focus on this issue,” Kwatra added.
Director of SCO RATS Mirzaev Ruslan Erkinovich visited India earlier this year and held talks with NSA Ajit Doval and the Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi. The SCO is one of the largest plurilateral, covering around 40 per cent of the global population and 30 per cent of the global GDP.
The 22nd Summit of the Council of Heads of the SCO Member States (SCO-CoHS) is being held in Samarkand in Uzbekistan, starting today. The Summit usually has 2 sessions – a restricted session, only for the SCO member states, and then an extended session likely includes participation by observers and special invitees. The heads of the two permanent bodies of SCO, the Secretary-General of the SCO Secretariat and the Director of SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) will be present in both sessions.
The SCO summit this year would be the first in-person SCO-CoHS Summit, after the last one held in June 2019 in Bishkek, before the Covid pandemic hit the world as the subsequent two summits under the chairmanship of Russia and Tajikistan were held in virtual format. Leaders of SCO Member States, Observer States, Secretary General of the SCO, Executive Director of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), President of Turkmenistan and other invited guests would attend the meeting.
The leaders of the SCO member countries will hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit, as they are meeting after two years due to the COVID pandemic. The leaders are expected to review the organization’s activities over the past two decades and discuss the state and prospects of multilateral cooperation. Topical issues of regional and global importance are also expected to be discussed at the meeting. PM Modi will attend the summit on Friday. He is expected to have bilateral meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Samarkand. PM Modi and the Russian President will discuss Russian-Indian cooperation within the UN and G20 during the SCO summit.
PM Modi has been leading the Indian delegation to the SCO Summit every year since India became its full member in 2017. During the last two summits in 2020 and 2021, Prime Minister participated in the virtual format. SCO has potential in various new sectors, wherein all the member-states could find converging interests. India has already pushed hard for cooperation in Startups and Innovation, Science and Technology and Traditional Medicine.
India, from the time of its full membership, made sincere efforts to encourage peace, prosperity, and stability of the whole Eurasian region in general and SCO member countries in particular. The SCO currently comprises eight Member States (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), four Observer States interested in acceding to full membership (Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia) and six “Dialogue Partners” (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey).