Although India’s engagement with the SCO has increased in the recent past, the Organisation is holding summit in Kazakhstan at the time when global geopolitical environment is fragile due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Israel-Hamas war and mounting tension in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea
India and SCO

The 24th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is scheduled to take place in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan on July 3-4, 2024.

It is likely that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the Astana Summit in July, 2024. PM Modi has participated in all SCO Summits since the decision to make India a full member in 2015 in Russia.

This has provided a unique opportunity for him to interact with leaders of other member states, particularly Central Asia.  

In addition to the annual summits, several meetings at ministerial and senior official levels also take place. These meetings provide a valuable opportunity to Indian leaders to meet their counterparts and promote cooperation with these countries.

The 2024 SCO summit

One of the main agendas of the meeting of Foreign Ministers of SCO in Astana in May, 2024 was to prepare for the upcoming Astana summit the theme of which is "Strengthening multilateral dialogue - striving for sustainable peace and development."

The deliberations acquire even greater significance in view of the on-going turbulence in the global security architecture.

The leaders are expected to sign more than 20 economic and security documents at the summit. These would include the Astana Declaration, the SCO Initiatives on World Unity for Just Peace and Harmony, the Roadmap for enhancing cooperation with SCO dialogue partners, and several others.

Special emphasis will be placed on the expansion of the Organisation. Addressing the meeting, the Kazakh President said that Kazakhstan proposed to develop the SCO Initiative ‘’On World Unity for Just Peace and Harmony’’ which will consolidate international efforts to resolve conflicts in various regions of the world.

He called for further steps to reform the SCO. Addressing the situation in Afghanistan, he stressed the need to prevent a humanitarian crisis and create conditions for long-term stabilization. 


In July 2015, in Ufa, Russia, India and Pakistan were admitted as full members. Iran became a full member of the Organization at the New Delhi virtual summit in July, 2023. Belarus is likely to be inducted as the 10th member of the SCO at the forthcoming summit in Astana in July, 2024.


At the SCO summit held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 2004, the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) was established with a mandate to “arrange studies of regional terrorist movements, exchange information about counter terrorist policies.

The RATS also coordinates exercises among SCO security forces and agencies efforts aimed at disrupting terrorist financing. It was reported in 2017 that the SCO RATS had been instrumental in foiling 600 terror plots and extraditing 500 terrorists.


The SCO is a multilateral, regional grouping with a focus on security and economic development, established in 2001.

It is the world's largest regional organization in terms of territorial expanse and population, covering approximately 60% of the area of Eurasia and 40% of the world population. As of 2023, its combined GDP is around 26% of the global GDP. 

The formation of the SCO was perceived among some members of the academic and strategic community, particularly in the West as the possible emergence of an eastern North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with an anti-West orientation. Its evolution over the last 23 years has belied these fears.

Military exercises are, however, regularly conducted among members to promote cooperation and coordination against terrorism and other external threats, and to maintain regional peace and stability.


In spite of the uninspiring performance of the SCO in the spheres of security and economic cooperation, its significance cannot be underestimated because it straddles large territorial, geopolitical, strategic and economic spaces and strengths.

Central Asia is India’s ‘’extended neighbourhood.’’ It is imperative for India to stay engaged with Central Asia and the broader Eurasian region. Increased association with the SCO will promote India’s interests of strengthening cooperation with friendly countries of Central Asia, Russia, Iran, and others, and provide a platform to interact with China on the side-lines of the meetings, if required. 

It is also pertinent to note that Central Asia is looking out of the region, beyond Russia and China, to strengthen its cooperation with other countries.

Russia’s influence in the region after its aggression of Ukraine in February, 2022 has taken a hit. China is strenuously trying to expand its footprint in the region. This has made the Central Asian nations increasingly uncomfortable.

India is a promising and attractive option for these countries not only because of its commendable democratic and liberal credentials but also because of its rapid economic growth, the size of its market, its scientific and technological, particularly digital, prowess, and talented workforce.

The SCO is an important platform, among others, to expand India’s partnership with Central Asia. It needs to be fully leveraged and taken advantage of.

***The writer is a Distinguished Fellow at Ananta Aspen Centre; he was the ambassador of India to Kazakhstan Sweden and Latvia; views expressed here are his own