The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental organisation.
The SCO grew out of the Shanghai Five grouping — of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan — which was set up in 1996 to resolve boundary disputes between China and each of the four other members.
It admitted Uzbekistan in 2001, re-christened itself the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and broadened its agenda to include political, economic and security cooperation.
In June 2017 in Astana (the capital city of Kazakhstan), India and Pakistan became full members of the Organization.
The admission of India and Pakistan has expanded the geographical, demographic and economic profile of the SCO, which now has about half the world’s population and a quarter of its GDP.
The SCO has four observer states Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.
The SCO has six dialogue partners: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.
The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO which meets once a year.
The organisation has twopermanent bodies — the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.
The SCO Secretary-General and the Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO RATS are appointed by the Council of Heads of State for a term of three years.
The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization sometimes also referred as ‘Eastern NATO’.
The SCO’s main goals are as follows:
Strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states;
Promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas;
Making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and
Moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO – It coordinates cooperation for security and stability, through intelligence-sharing on criminal and terrorist activities.
In 2005, the Astana declaration called for SCO countries to work on a “joint SCO response to situations that threaten peace, security and stability in the region”.