The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), or Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter, formally establishing the organisation, was signed in June 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003. The original six nations, with the exception of Uzbekistan, were previously members of the Shanghai Five group, founded on 26 April 1996.
The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO, it meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation. Military exercises among members are also regularly conducted to promote coordination against terrorism, and to maintain regional peace and stability. India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The SCO is often dubbed as the “alliance of Asia”, due to its growing centrality in the Asian continent, and has been the primary security pillar of the region. Being the world’s forefront regional organisation in economic power and political influence, and one of the world’s strongest military alliances, it is also the largest regional organisation in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population. At present, the SCO is one of the world’s most powerful and influential organisations.
- The Council of Heads of State is the top decision-making body in the SCO. This council meets at the SCO summits, which are held each year in one of the member states’ capital cities.
- The Council of Heads of Government is the second-highest council in the organisation. This council also holds annual summits, at which time members discuss issues of multilateral cooperation. The council also approves the organisation’s budget.
- The Council of Foreign Ministers also hold regular meetings, where they discuss the current international situation and the SCO’s interaction with other international organisations.
- The Council of National Coordinators coordinates the multilateral cooperation of member states within the framework of the SCO’s charter.
- The Secretariat of the SCO is the primary executive body of the organisation. It serves to implement organisational decisions and decrees, drafts proposed documents (such as declarations and agendas), function as a document depository for the organisation, arranges specific activities within the SCO framework, and promotes and disseminates information about the SCO. It is located in Beijing.
- The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, is a permanent organ of the SCO which serves to promote cooperation of member states against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism.
The official working languages of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are Chinese and Russian.
- The member states of the SCO are- China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and
- The observer states are- Mongolia, Iran, Belarus and
- The position of dialogue partners was created in 2008 and is given to- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Turkey, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
- The ASEAN, CIS, UN and Turkmenistan are guest attendees.
- Cooperation on Security– The SCO is primarily centered on its member nations’ Central Asian security-related concerns, often describing the main threats it confronts as being terrorism, separatism and extremism. However evidence is growing that its activities in the area of social development of its member states is increasing fast. The organisation is also redefining cyber-warfare, saying that the dissemination of information “harmful to the spiritual, moral and cultural spheres of other states” should be considered a “security threat”. The Diplomatreported in 2017 that SCO has foiled 600 terror plots and extradited 500 terrorists through RATS.
- Military Exercises– Over the past few years, the organisation’s activities have expanded to include increased military cooperation, intelligence sharing, and counterterrorism. There have been a number of SCO joint military exercises. The SCO has served as a platform for larger military announcements by members. As of August 2018, a military exercise with India and Pakistan, the newest members, is taking place in Russia.
- Economic Cooperation– Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are also members of the Eurasian Economic Union. A Framework Agreement to enhance economic cooperation was signed by the SCO member states on 23 September 2003. At the same meeting the PRC’s Premier, proposed a long-term objective to establish a free trade area in the SCO, while other more immediate measures would be taken to improve the flow of goods in the region. Other proposed projects include joint use of energy resources, water resources and the creation of an Inter-bank SCO Council.
- Cultural Cooperation– Cultural cooperation also occurs in the SCO framework. Culture ministers of the SCO met for the first time in Beijing on 12 April 2002, signing a joint statement for continued cooperation. An SCO Arts Festival and Exhibition was held for the first time during the Astana Summit in 2005.