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C3S Conversation on "India at SCO" with Ambassador P.S. Raghavan

Ambassador P. S. Raghavan, Chairman, National Security Advisory Board in conversation with Mr. Balasubramanian C. Senior Research Officer, C3S

Questions posed to Ambassador P.S Raghavan

1. Ambassador may I begin by asking you on the significance of the SCO to India. This is the 5th Anniversary of our membership in the SCO. We have a principled, strategic partnership with the Russian Federation. At the same time, we have a strategic partnership based on shared values with the USA. And then, there is the China factor. How does India’s membership of Quad square up with our presence at the SCO and how are the perceived terminological differences of the Indo-Pacific and Asia-Pacific overcome within the SCO? Do these points gain significance with India taking over the SCO Presidency and that of the G20 later this year. [1:20]

2. Ambassador, the just concluded Summit of the SCO was taking place against the background of some major developments of concern in the political, economic and socio-health fields. The impact of Covid 19, the fallout of the war in Ukraine, the economic and food crisis, the continuing menace of terrorism were some of the issues which concentrated the minds of many of the participating leaders. With these developments casting a long shadow on the Samarkand Summit, how successful was the meeting between the leaders of the SCO? How does the Samarkand Communique reflect these diverse issues? [14:30]

3. The SCO was formed in 2001 as a partnership of choice between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China with the addition of three Central Asian States. With the addition of the three members thereafter and Iran joining in at the recent Summit to make it a nine and perhaps with the coming in of Turkey and others in the not-too-distant future, would Russia and China see some sort of dilution in their grip in the setting of the SCO agenda? How would this impact India’s membership in the SCO? Our Prime Minister remarked on the centrality of Central Asia in the SCO. [20:00]

4. In his statement, our Prime Minister had noted that SCO must make efforts to develop reliable, resilient and diversified supply chains in our region requiring better connectivity, as well as grant of full right to transit to members. We do have significant hurdles in this regard from Pakistan and maybe even from China. Would our active participation in the International North-South Corridor and our involvement in Chahbahar allow us to mitigate the negative effect of the denial of transit rights? [23:31]

5. SCO members expressed their deep concern over the security threat posed by terrorism, separatism, and extremism. However, two of the SCO members seem to be oblivious to this very thought by deliberately ignoring India’s sustained campaign in the fight against the global menace of terrorism. How can we overcome this conundrum which does reflect on the non-seriousness of some of the members on the fight against terrorism. And India would be hosting the RATS meeting and the UNSC meetings on terrorism shortly. [26:25]

6. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with President Putin reinforced the strength of India-Russia relations. The West has made much noise of the Prime Minister’s “era of war” remark. However, the response of the Russian leader saw an understanding. Going forward, how do you see India-Russia relations developing with the various churning processes going on in the global geostrategic environment. [30:12]

7. There was some mention of the possibility of a Modi-Xi meeting following in what our External Affairs Minister saw as the removal of one point from the difficulties in India-China relations. I refer to the PP15 disengagement Expectedly, the meeting did not take place. From your experience both as a diplomat and as someone who had accompanied a former Prime Minister to various meetings, would there have the possibility of some exchange of pleasantries and even more between the two leaders behind doors? And where does this leave India-China relations? President Xi did mention China’s support and cooperation to India’s Presidency of the SCO. [37:18]

8. Speaking of Russia – China relations has there been some dent in the ‘no limits’ partnership? Would Beijing be setting those limits? How can India ensure its interests are preserved in this competing and competing interests esp. in the matrix of Sino-Russian ties? [41:44]

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