The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Vladimir Putin could have probably stayed at home instead of attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan.

In mid-September, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit was held in Uzbekistan amid tensions on the Sino-Indian border, Russia’s failed invasion of Ukraine, and escalating tensions along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; India and Pakistan joined the organisation in 2017. The summit included two sessions: a gathering of the heads of members and an extended gathering of nations with observer status within the SCO.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev after the summit discussions. Regarding their meeting, it is obvious that it was not a pleasant exchange. Modi stated that “today’s era is not of war and we have spoken to you many times on the phone that democracy, diplomacy, and dialogue are such things that touch the world.”

Modi also expressed his concerns about fuel and food security, and fertilizer shortages. Putin responded by saying “I know your position on the conflict in Ukraine, the concerns that you constantly express. We will do everything to stop this as soon as possible.” Throughout Russia’s disastrous war, Putin has blamed Ukraine for the war, saying that Kyiv has rejected negotiations.

In his remarks at the summit, Modi raised the issues of COVID and the Ukraine conflict, which have brought to the fore the challenges that arise from supply chain disruptions, which have led to “an unprecedented energy and food crisis.” He also called upon the SCO to become adaptable and “develop reliable, resilient and diversified supply chains” which “will require better connectivity, as well as it will be important that we all give each other full right to transit.”

Given the significant internal conflicts and suspicions inside the organisation, the SCO’s mission is coming under greater scrutiny. Even though China is Russia’s closest strategic ally, Moscow had its own reservations about Beijing, and it is unknown how their relationship will develop in the future. Because of the issues that have arisen as a result of the war, China’s Xi Jinping seemed dissatisfied with how Putin has handled his unilateral invasion of Ukraine.

In addition, relations between India and Russia have not been great for a while. It is unlikely that the issues presently affecting relations between India and Russia will be resolved any time soon given the growing strategic proximity between China and Russia. In fact, given that Russia may continue to pursue a tighter alliance with China in the face of escalating hostility between Russia and the West, the difficulties could end up being insurmountable. However, China is India’s top national security challenge, and as Russia is forging tighter ties with China at the expense of India, the India-Russia relationship is becoming even more strained.

Beyond the formalities of diplomacy, Russia has been providing China with more sophisticated weapon platforms, which has a real impact on India’s security as well as the military balance between China and India. However, a weaker Russia that cannot even wage a war against a far weaker neighbour like Ukraine is likely to be of less value to China. The relationship between the two countries could become imbalanced because Russia is now more dependent on China, despite the fact that it can contribute natural resources, especially energy supplies, and some legacy high technology.

The United States, Japan, Australia, and France are some of India’s new security allies, and their irritation with India’s attempts to preserve cordial ties with Russia has intensified. India needs these new security alliances to control an increasingly powerful China. Therefore, it is not surprising that India and Russia are becoming less close.

Overall, Putin has had a really embarrassing and fruitless summit. The SCO may live, but it won’t be well for a while.

Abhishek Kumar is a student of law at National Law University, Lucknow, India with an interest in public policy and Human Rights. He is an avid reader, Trekkie and cinephile.