The 20th meeting of the Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Heads of States was held virtually on 10th November, 2020. The meeting precedes the SCO Summit to be hosted by India at the end of this month, and for which preparations have been on through the year. In this compendium of three essays, Gateway House assesses the potential for deepening economic cooperation between India & SCO, asks whether the SCO Charter needs dynamism and revision, and traces the roots of the regions's Buddhist presence, back to India.
Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Programme
Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia is a Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Programme at Gateway House. He is a member of CII’s two bodies: International Trade Policy Council and Africa Committee. He served as Chair of FICCI’s Core Group of Experts on BIMSTEC and continues to head its Task Force on the Blue Economy. He is a founding member of the Kalinga International Foundation. As Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) from 2012-15, he played a key role in strengthening India's Track-II research and outreach activities. During a 37-year innings in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), he served as Ambassador to Myanmar and Mexico and as High Commissioner to Kenya and South Africa. He dealt with a part of South Asia, while posted as Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs. A prolific columnist, who has also written a critically acclaimed book, India-Myanmar Relations: Changing Contours (Routledge), he is a frequent speaker on foreign policy issues in India and abroad. He was Senior Visiting Research Fellow during 2011-13 at the Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Allahabad University.
Indo-Pacific (including SEA), Africa, South Asia, Myanmar, Blue Economy, Regional Groupings, Indian Foreign Policy and Diplomacy
Last modified: January 11, 2021
India will host the 19th meeting of the Council of Heads of Government on 30 November 2020. This will be the first meeting of the grouping’s second highest organ, hosted by India. The significance of the event lies in the timing – India’s relations with two fellow memberstates, China and Pakistan, are at an exceptionally low ebb; yet the clear message from the SCO Secretariat and other member-states is: India’s presence in the SCO is highly beneficial to the latter and should be fully leveraged to strengthen it as an important and upcoming intergovernmental organisation. This necessitates a fresh appraisal of options for India.
Now that the India-U.S. 2+2 meeting has ended, Indian officials are preparing for a hectic season of summiteering in November, from the SCO to the BRICS and the G20. All will give India global attention, and help the country prepare its positioning at home and abroad.
The record of regional cooperation on rivers since India's independence in 1947 is one of several successes, with some contestations. In contrast to the past when governments strove to divide and share river waters, the endeavor has now shifted to thinking about comprehensive river basin development which makes the process even more complex. India’s policy on transboundary river governance must now also be aware of the increasing importance of Indo-Pacific in the global geopolitics.
The visit of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and COAS Gen. MM Naravane to Myanmar on October 4-5 will advance this vital relationship at a critical time. As the region’s geopolitics change, India’s Neighbourhood First and Act East policy and Myanmar’s deep-seated instinct for a balanced and independent foreign policy, must ensure that the two countries journey together as companion souls.
The G20's agenda has expanded over the past decade to include Africa. India should use the opportunity of its upcoming presidency of the G20 in 2022 to further cement its relationship with Africa and pursue a multilateral agenda from within the G20 for a more equal partnership with Africa.
Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Programme, Gateway House delivered the opening remarks at the 2020 Asia Economic and Entrepreneurship Summit, in the lead-up to the session, - The Future of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in a Sustainable VUCA World – What to Expect? What Next? The Summit was jointly organised by the KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific (KSI), The Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC) and China Daily Asia Pacific (CD), Kuala Lumpur, 8 September 2020.
India and Mexico will both be non-permanent members at the UNSC for 2021-22. Although located on different sides of the globe, culturally, the two countries share more in common than expected. As fellow non-permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as pro-active members of G20, the two countries need to intensify their mutual dialogue and cooperation on how to overcome the current weakening and impasse in the multilateral system.
The COVID crisis compelled a change in the Business20 (B20) focus areas to reviving health, health facilities and business activity in 2020. India must start work now to give the B20 even greater responsiveness and relevance as the prospective G20 chair in 2022.
China’s escalating actions in the wake of the COVID-19 catastrophe is a calculated strategic diversion and risk. In the Indo-Pacific, tensions between China and the U.S., Australia, India and others are building momentum. As a geopolitical partnership, the relevance of the Quad is now proven. There are clear ways to empower it immediately, and make it a resilient grouping.