Positioning India in a chaotic world


Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting (September 2022) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, was a test case for governments on how to deal with current conflicts and attempt new guidelines for the future.

About Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO):

  • SCO is an intergovernmental international organisation that exists indefinitely. It was founded in 2001. The SCO Charter was signed in 2002 and took effect in 2003.
  • SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and security partnership. It is the world’s largest regional organisation in terms of geographic breadth and population, spanning around 60% of Eurasia, 40% of the world population, and more than 30% of global GDP.

Objectives of SCO:

1. Increasing mutual trust and neighbourliness among member countries.

2. Encouraging successful collaboration in politics, commerce and economics, research and technology, and culture.

3. Strengthening linkages in education, energy, transportation, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas.

4. Maintain and ensure regional peace, security, and stability.

5. The establishment of a new world political and economic system that is democratic, fair, and reasonable.

Structure of the SCO:

  1. Heads of State Council – The top SCO body that decides on internal SCO operations, interactions with other states and international organisations, and international concerns.
  2. Heads of Government Council – Approves the budget and evaluates and decides on topics pertaining to SCO’s economic domains of engagement.
  3. Council of Foreign Ministers – Considers problems concerning day-to-day operations.
  4. Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) – An organisation formed to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism.

SCO Member Nations:

1. China

2. India

3. Kazakhstan

4. Kyrgyzstan

5. Uzbekistan

6. Russia

7. Pakistan

8. Tajikistan

Dialogue Partners:

1. Armenia

2. Azerbaijan

3. Cambodia

4. Nepal

5. Sri Lanka

6. Turkey

New version of non-alignment

  • India’s presence at the meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO was significant, reflecting a desire to be a part of both blocs, without antagonising either. The justification provided is that it represented a ‘new version’ of Non-alignment, viz., steering an independent course, despite open association with rival blocs.
  • For instance, after refusing to take sides in the Ukrainian conflict for months, Mr. Modi told Mr. Putin that “this isn’t the era of war, but of democracy, dialogue and diplomacy”. This has been interpreted as a mild rebuke of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • On the other hand, in his formal opening remarks at the summit, Mr. Modi thanked both Russia and Ukraine for the evacuation of Indian students from Ukraine, highlighting India’s posture of equidistance between the two countries.
  • The philosophical underpinning for this seems to be that ‘Nonalignment of the past’ had not succeeded, and a way had to be found for “multiple engagements of the future”.
  • Recently the United States and other western allies had complimented India for its participation in the Quad (Australia, Japan, India and the U.S.). Whether India can make out a case for ‘mixing utopia with reality’ under the label of ‘multi alignment’ is yet to be seen, but it does provide grist to an idea being floated that this provides leeway for India to play a much bigger role in ‘managing conflict’.
  • It would be interesting to see whether this SCO summit will pave the way for India to exploit other situations created by political contradictions and use them to its advantage. A test case is India’s relations with Iran which have been on the backburner for some time, following a U.S. threat to impose sanctions on India if it continued to trade with Iran. The cost to India on account of the freeze in relations with Iran has been high, including having to pay higher prices for crude and the inability to utilise the Chabahar Connectivity Project as an alternate route to Afghanistan.
  • Refashioning India’s foreign policy has become vital at a time when India is facing a confluence of old and new situations and threats, which often intersect.

Ties with China

  • Jettisoning an erroneous belief that prevails among some sections of India’s foreign policy establishment, viz., that the erstwhile policy of Non-alignment had done little to enhance India’s image, should be the beginning, followed by deeper introspection before effecting fundamental changes in the policy of Non-alignment.
  • India’s foreign policy should be creative enough to leave an opening for an improvement in India-China relations over the longer term.
  • Again, the intensity of the current conflict between India and China should not lead India’s strategic establishment to overlook the fact that the primary conflict between India and China is ‘civilizational’, and not for territory.
  • India’s foreign policy mandarins must look for opportunities for the betterment of relations at an opportune time, which could well arise when China’s economy begins to stall and India’s economy (in-line with the expectations of economists worldwide) rises, moderating China’s current aggressive behaviour.
  • Refashioning relations with China over the longer term is important, but attention also needs to be given on how to manage relations in the near term in the context of the growing closeness in China-Russia relations. As their relations become closer, they have the potential of adversely impacting the current warmth in India-Russia relations.

Nuclear dimension

  • An issue that has remained on the backburner for years may now need consideration in the context of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, viz., the nuclear dimension.
  • We have a ‘No First Use Doctrine’, and while nuclear relationships involving India, China and Pakistan have remained remarkably subdued over many years, India’s strategic and foreign policy establishment cannot afford to overlook the nuclear aspect, given that the country is wedged between two active, and hostile, nuclear powers — China and Pakistan.
  • Nuclear stability, as we have known for some years now, could well change in the near future. What cannot also be ignored in this context is the growing sophistication of Chinese nuclear forces, and to a lesser extent that of Pakistan, which has the effect of putting India at a disadvantage with both predictable and unpredictable consequences.
  • India’s new foreign policy imperatives cannot again afford to ignore this aspect, even though at present India is the only one among the three that does not see nuclear weapons as intended for use in the event of a war. Nevertheless, it behoves India’s strategic and foreign policy establishment to consider how best to prevent ‘debilitating strategic instability’ — with regard to China in particular — given the pace at which China’s nuclear arsenal is growing.


Hence, navigating the coming decade necessitates giving up many of the existing policy constructs, providing for a wider outreach, and ensuring that our policy is not merely in step with current needs but is always a step ahead.

The lumpy skin disease (LSD)


Mumbai Police have ordered the prohibition of cattle transportation in the city to prevent the spread of the lumpy skin disease (LSD).

About LSD:

  • Lumpy skin disease is caused by the lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV), which belongs to the genus capripoxvirus, a part of the poxviridae family (smallpox and monkeypox viruses are also a part of the same family).
  • The LSDV shares antigenic similarities with the sheeppox virus (SPPV) and the goatpox virus (GTPV) or is similar in the immune response to those viruses. It is not a zoonotic virus, meaning the disease cannot spread to humans.
  • It is a contagious vector-borne disease spread by vectors like mosquitoes, some biting flies, and ticks and usually affects host animals like cows and water buffaloes.
  • According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), infected animals shed the virus through oral and nasal secretions which may contaminate common feeding and water troughs.
  • Thus, the disease can either spread through direct contact with the vectors or through contaminated fodder and water. Studies have also shown that it can spread through animal semen during artificial insemination.

Effects of lSD on cattle:

  • LSD affects the lymph nodes of the infected animal, causing the nodes to enlarge and appear like lumps on the skin, which is where it derives its name from.
  • The cutaneous nodules appear on the infected cattle’s head, neck, limbs, udder, genitalia, and perineum. The nodules may later turn into ulcers and eventually develop scabs over the skin.
  • Other symptoms include high fever, sharp drop in milk yield, discharge from the eyes and nose, salivation, loss of appetite, depression, damaged hides, emaciation (thinness or weakness) of animals, infertility and abortions.
  • The morbidity of the disease varies between 2 to 45% and mortality or rate of death is less than 10%, however, the reported mortality of the current outbreak in India is up to 15%, particularly in cases being reported in the western part (Rajasthan) of the country.

History and geography (distribution) of LSD:

  • The disease was first observed in Zambia in 1929, subsequently spreading to most African countries extensively, followed by West Asia, Southeastern Europe, and Central Asia, and more recently spreading to South Asia and China in 2019.
  • As per the FAO, the LSD disease is currently endemic in several countries across Africa, parts of West Asia (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic), and Turkey.
  • The spread in South Asia first affected Bangladesh in July 2019 and then reached India in August that year, with initial cases being detected in Odisha and West Bengal.

Is it safe to consume the milk of affected cattle?

  • Studies say that it has not been possible to ascertain the presence of viable and infectious LSDV virus in milk derived from the infected animal. FAO notes, however, that a large portion of the milk in Asia is processed after collection and is either pasteurised or boiled or dried in order to make milk powder. This process ensures that the virus is inactivated or destroyed.

The economic implications

  • The spread of the disease can lead to “substantial” and “severe” economic losses according to FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH). The disease leads to reduced milk production as the animal becomes weak.
  • The income losses can also be due to poor growth, reduced draught power capacity and reproductive problems associated with abortions, infertility and lack of semen for artificial insemination. Movement and trade bans after infection also put an economic strain on the whole value chain.
  • A risk assessment study conducted by the FAO based on information available from 2019 to October 2020 revealed that the economic impact of LSD for South, East and Southeast Asian countries “was estimated to be up to $1.45 billion in direct losses of livestock and production”.
  • The current outbreak in India has emerged as a challenge for the dairy sector. India is the world’s largest milk producer at about 210 million tonnes annually. India also has the largest headcount of cattle and buffalo worldwide.
  • According to FAO, the disease threatens the livelihoods of smaller poultry farmers significantly. Notably, farmers in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab have incurred losses due to cattle deaths and are seeking compensation from their state governments.

Government initiatives:

  • The Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying informed that the ‘Goat Pox Vaccine’ is “very effective” against LSD and is being used across affected States to contain the spread.
  • The affected States have put movement bans in place and are isolating infected cattle and buffaloes, spraying insecticides to kill vectors like mosquitoes, with some affected States also setting up dedicated control rooms and helpline numbers to guide farmers whose cattle have been infected.
  • In a major breakthrough, two institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have developed an indigenous vaccine for LSD, which the Centre plans to commercialise and roll out in the next three to four months.

Way forward: Control measures:

The FAO has suggested a set of spread-control measures for LSD, which involves

  1. vaccination of susceptible populations with more than 80% coverage
  2. movement control of bovine animals and quarantining
  3. implementing biosecurity through vector control by sanitising sheds and spraying insecticides
  4. strengthening active and passive surveillance
  5. spreading awareness on risk mitigation among all stakeholders involved
  6. creating large protection and surveillance zones and vaccination zones.


The fight against LSD needs to be multi-pronged: evidence based control measures, vaccines, isolation of affected cattle, bar on cattle sell and movement in affected areas and public awareness.


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