I commend Kazakhstan for the excellent work done as SCO Chair

Minister of External Affairs of India Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar
Photo: Viktor Fedunin/Kazinform

Minister of External Affairs of India Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar gave insights in an exclusive interview to Kazinform News Agency on how he assesses Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, fight against ‘the three evils’ and regional security in the context of the SCO.

India, being a key member of the SCO, how does the country perceive Kazakhstan’s leadership of the organization this year? Which priorities outlined by Kazakhstan do you believe were most successfully addressed during its tenure?

SCO is an important organization for India. We share millennia-old relationship with the countries in the region, especially in cultural and people-to-people ties. In his speech at the New Delhi Summit last year, my Prime Minister said that we do not see this region not just as an extended neighborhood but as an extended family. My country shares an excellent relationship with Kazakhstan both bilaterally and in various multilateral fora. Since the establishment of SCO in 2001, Kazakhstan has held the Presidency 4 times.

You may recall that Kazakhstan took over the Chairmanship of SCO from India after the New Delhi Summit of July 2023. One of the challenges in assuming Chairmanship in SCO, or for any organization, is to carry forward and build upon the momentum built by the earlier Presidency. To increase the value of already achieved consensus is the way forward in multilateralism. In that sense, I congratulate Kazakhstan, in building upon the momentum achieved during India’s Chairmanship in various fields.

There is no doubt that the major challenge faced by the world today is terrorism. It has become a threat to regional and global peace, and it demands urgent action from all of us. In this aspect, I am happy that Kazakhstan during their Chairmanship have negotiated an updated program to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism, which was adopted in Astana Summit.

India also remains deeply committed to fighting climate change, and ‘Environment’ is a priority for us. We welcome environment related concepts within SCO. You may be aware of India’s initiative — «Lifestyle for Environment» (LiFE), which was declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Glasgow on the sidelines of COP 26. It is a global initiative that encourages people to adopt sustainable lifestyle.

Kazakhstan’s Chairmanship has been particularly focused and successful in the field of environment. Specifically, the MoU between SCO and UNEP was signed after several years of negotiations. I hope the implementation of the MOU will yield fruitful benefits.

Kazakhstan has also taken initiatives to strengthen the framework documents of the SCO. Kazakhstan finalized the documents on modernization of the organization to keep up with the evolving realities. We appreciate the Kazakh side’s efforts in this regard.

Overall, I commend the Kazakh side for the excellent work done over the last one year of their Presidency and for their efforts to further build the profile of the organization.

Minister of External Affairs of India Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar
Photo: Viktor Fedunin/Kazinform

One of the main focus areas for the SCO this year has been security. At the Astana Summit, two significant initiatives adopted: an updated program to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism, and the SCO Anti-Drug Strategy. What are your opinions on the importance and potential impact of these documents?

Fight against the three evils- Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism- is a priority in SCO. During the New Delhi Summit last year, one of the two Joint Statements adopted was on ‘Countering Radicalization leading to Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism’. The statements included various elements of radicalization — including ideology, media campaign, as well as radical and terrorist content on internet.

Kazakhstan, during their Chairmanship, carried forward the spirit of that Joint Statement. The updated program to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism is critical and timely. But I want to emphasize that what is more important is the actual implementation of the program that we have now successfully drawn up, which includes unambiguous commitment by all the Member States in getting rid of all forms and manifestations of terrorism in the region, including cross-border terrorism.

Drug Trafficking is another issue that we need to combat together, and is very closely related to two other issues in the region — terrorism and stability in Afghanistan. There is a consensus on the establishment of Anti-Drug Centre in Dushanbe. This is a welcome move and is much needed. The Anti-Drug Centre together with the proposed Universal Centre will be an effective weapon in combating drug trafficking.

During the SCO summit, the situation in Afghanistan was also discussed. How would you describe the current conditions in Afghanistan, and what actions do you believe are necessary to avert a humanitarian crisis and ensure long-term stability in the country?

In India we have historical relationship with the people of Afghanistan. And this people-to-people connect is actually a foundation for our ties. I think some of the concerns you have raised are very valid. And we are trying to address that not now, but for many years: through more development aspects, through humanitarian assistance, through capacity building and activities like sports, because you have a motivating impact on people. We continue to supply medicine to the hospitals in Afghanistan. There is a problem of food. We supply wheat to a number of people. There had been the attack of the locusts, we get pesticides to them. We have been helping, supporting and contributing. The agenda of the day is the relationship of the people. We should remain the compass in which we are going toward.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has underscored the principle of the indivisibility of Eurasian security. What are your thoughts on Kazakhstan’s strategy for fostering cooperation within the SCO? Which of Kazakhstan’s proposed initiatives to enhance the organization’s effectiveness do you consider to be the most impactful?

We acknowledge the fact that SCO has a major role to play in the region’s security, and believe that SCO as an organization should be allowed to fully utilize its potential. In fact, India’s priorities for the Chairmanship last year were on the theme ‘Towards a SECURE SCO’ — with SECURE being an acronym which stands for Security, Economic cooperation, Connectivity, Unity, Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and Environment

When we say regional security in the context of SCO, the most important issues that stand out is terrorism, including cross-border terrorism. Today, after decades of taking measures against terrorism in global forums, including through the UNSC, terrorism continues to be a threat to the region. The UN designated terror outfits are still functioning in the region.

Combating terrorism requires a very comprehensive approach — not just the perpetrators of heinous acts of terrorism, but the facilitators, financiers and sponsors of terrorism — they all need to be identified and punished. I strongly believe that SCO through Regional Anti-Terrrorist Structure (RATS) has a reasonable standing to propose measures against terrorism in the region. We stand ready to strengthen SCO mechanisms in this front. I hope that the proposed Universal Centre to be established within the RATS in Tashkent, along with the other specialized centers under the Universal Centre, will grow to become foremost anti-terrorist structure in the region.

I also believe that any security related initiative or paradigm should be formulated taking into consideration territorial integrity and sovereignty of all the countries that will be involved. We also need to build consensus from the very beginning, from the very genesis of an idea or concept, not just in the negotiation process of documents in which the ideas and initiatives are mentioned without much explanation.

On the last part of your question, the modernization process of SCO was discussed extensively during Kazakhstan’s Chairmanship, and I appreciate Kazakhstan for boldly starting this complex negotiation process. You may be aware that India has been a strong proponent of UNSC reforms, and we have been vocal about it for decades at every global forum. We strongly believe that modernization and reforms are all part of growth of any organization. So, we will continue to support all the measures to improve SCO’s activity, especially the point pertaining to the status of English in SCO.

Minister of External Affairs of India Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar
Photo: Victor Fedunin/Kazinform

How does India evaluate the SCO’s efforts to strengthen cooperation across the Eurasian region? What is your assessment of Kazakhstan’s capability to unify member countries at the upcoming Astana SCO summit?

In the past few years, SCO was on a path of active expansion, in which close to a dozen countries were added to the SCO family. SCO partners now include countries in the Middle East as well.

As we expand, we should also take into consideration the fact that building consensus should be ever more mindful about the sensibilities of every Side,

taking into consideration priorities of each Party, and with the ultimate motive of adding value to the existing cooperation frameworks in SCO.

India strongly believes in the centrality of the interests of Central Asian states in SCO. Therefore, Kazakhstan, the largest among the Central Asian countries has a lot of potential as well as responsibility in bringing together the SCO family.

India has a particularly special place for Kazakhstan in SCO — since we officially joined SCO in 2017 at the Astana Summit. For the past 7 years, we have come one full cycle in terms of Chairmanship of SCO, and over these 7 years, SCO has expanded, and India hosted two Summits — Council of Heads of Government and Council of Heads of State. India highly values its bilateral relationship with Kazakhstan. In the same spirit, I appreciate Kazakhstan in bringing together all the partners for the Summit this time, including several International Organizations.

What steps will be implemented to facilitate and encourage Indian businesses to operate in Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan needs to give a stronger message to Indian companies, that it is open for business, because business is very competitive. If you want companies to come as investor, you have to make an effort. Indian companies have been here for many years, but we want to do more efforts. I would definitely like to see together  Indian Government, Kazakh Government and our foreign ministries trying to find the ways of making more serious investment efforts. 

With Kazakhstan designating 2024 as the Year of Ecology in the SCO, what initiatives does India propose to enhance environmental collaboration?

We are today very active in the field of climate action. If you look in the renewable capacities, the biggest renewable capacities are coming from India. For example, in India we have very big program, that every house in India puts a solar panel on the roof. There’are many experiences we can share with people. For example, food grain, water usage. We all have a common problem. We believe there are areas of cooperation in green environment. Environment, equality, sustainability are the key areas to go forward.

Photo: Viktor Fedunin/Kazinform


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