SCO Summit Broadcasts Internal Disagreements, Possibility of Further Expansion

On Tuesday, India chaired the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) annual heads of state meeting, with virtual cameos from Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and more.  

The high-powered summit saw leaders discuss “political and security issues, trade and investment, transportation and energy, culture, and humanitarian exchanges,” among other issues, according to an SCO readout. Participants also raised the idea of expanding the organization, which added Iran as its ninth member during the summit.  

Xi calls for tighter SCO ties, criticizes the West  

Moscow and Beijing founded the SCO, a political, economic, and security bloc, in 2001. Its membership covers around 40 per cent of the world’s population and roughly 25 per cent of global GDP.  

Xi stated in his speech on Tuesday that SCO member states need to upgrade security co-operation, and that they should “crack down hard on the forces of terrorism, separatism, and extremism.” He implored his fellow leaders to oppose protectionism, unilateral sanctions, and the “overstretching” of national security. Chinese state media argued, in a piece following the summit, that adding more members could help bolster SCO's global influence.   

Disagreements linger  

Pakistan and India sparred at the summit, according to India Today. Modi, seemingly in a swipe at Pakistan, said in his remarks that "some countries use cross-border terrorism as an instrument of their policies and provide shelter to terrorists. SCO should not hesitate to criticize such nations.” Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif responded by drawing attention to alleged minority persecution in India, adding that India shouldn’t use terrorism for "diplomatic point scoring.”  

India also appeared to take aim to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with Modi stating that “strong connectivity is crucial for the progress of any region . . . [but] it is essential to uphold the basic principles of the SCO charter, particularly respecting the sovereignty and regional integrity of the member states.”