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Killexams : SCO CERTIFICATION download - BingNews Search results Killexams : SCO CERTIFICATION download - BingNews Killexams : SCO reaches a historical starting point No result found, try new keyword!JIN DING/CHINA DAILY The document adopted by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization at its 20th summit reads: «Today the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has firmly established itself as an ... Thu, 06 Oct 2022 08:01:00 -0500 en-US text/html Killexams : Creating a bridge between SCO, G20

It is a busy season on Raisina Hill as India assumes stewardship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and takes charge of the Group of Twenty (G20) in December. Leading these two plurilateral groups will be complex and challenging. The groupings have divergent goals, purposes, and memberships even as they grapple with Covid-19’s disruptive impact on the global economy and conflicts during and after the pandemic. India will need to ensure that the concerns of developing countries are not relegated to the margins by the European conflict.

At the heart of the endeavour lies the challenge of dialogue and conversations with all, even as a subset of like-minded countries invest in frameworks that respond to decadal objectives. “Talk to all and work more with some” will have to be India’s mantra for 2023 as it has a rare opportunity to make two distinct agendas align with its own.

At SCO, China’s dominant position is inescapable, and it overwhelms the preferences and perspectives of others. Here, India and Russia may share a common imperative to balance China and make SCO focus on a broader policy and development agenda. As Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi pointed out during the SCO summit last month, this is not the time for war. Moving away from conflict to attend to the frailties of the economy may be beneficial for SCO and less contentious too. Many in the group are uncomfortable with the Russia-Ukraine conflict and would rather see this group focus on the development and human challenges the region is saddled with. India will have to reset the playing board skillfully. If China is playing “go”, and Russia is playing “roulette”, New Delhi will need to play smart chess.

However, the nature of SCO and its purpose will ensure that politics takes centre-stage. In Samarkand, the Indian PM showed the way. Niceties need to be dropped, and hard questions must be posed, including on sovereignty, the expansionist tendencies of some countries, including China, and terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Simultaneously, India must inject its growth imperative around technology, sustainability and green transitions into discussions and state its concerns over cyber security, online malfeasance, and white elephant infrastructure projects, among others. At SCO, India would do well to initiate debates on these issues, irrespective of the outcomes, and create space for discussions that may not have Beijing’s blessings.

Diplomacy sometimes misconstrues the role of the host country to imply benign or agnostic participation. India, however, must maintain its determination to have an assertive foreign policy that seeks to shape and steer conversations towards the outcomes it desires.

All of this cannot be starkly divergent from India’s G20 agenda. There needs to be a bridge linking what we aim to achieve through SCO and G20, although the methods and formulations used in each forum may differ. G20 requires a different type and style of hosting. India can leverage its experience to communicate with all actors involved and curate conversations that cater to diverse constituencies. “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas and Sabka Prayas” (inclusive development for all, everyone’s trust and efforts) is an all-encompassing Indian approach that fits G20.

Here, India will need to ensure that the clouds of war that loom over Europe do not pour down on its presidency. India must make it clear to its western partners that it will view any attempt to reduce the impact of its G20 presidency seriously. At the same time, New Delhi must make clear to Moscow that steps towards de-escalation are essential from its end.

External factors will inevitably distract the grouping from anything that is discussed within it. The agenda that is engaged with and outcomes delivered at G20 may be bold (unlikely) or sub-optimal (more probable). However, thanks to G20’s structure, global action will always be evolutionary. India’s efforts must draw from Indonesia and deliver to Brazil and then South Africa.

PM Modi’s reiteration of the importance of “democracy, diplomacy, and dialogue” at the SCO Summit is a message that the G20 leaders should also remember as they prepare to engage at the upcoming G20 Summit in Indonesia and beyond. G20’s ability to navigate through economic and social crises should not become hostage to regional or bilateral politics.

India must make a clear and robust case to address larger goals in the spirit of cooperation. It must focus precisely on what it wants to achieve from each working group at G20 and aim to create a legacy and a future-oriented architecture, which will lend continuity to what it incubates.

Samir Saran is president, and Jhanvi Tripathi is associate fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, India
The views expressed are personal

Wed, 05 Oct 2022 08:00:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : SCO states ready to support flood-hit Pakistan: Defense Minister

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will visit China in the first week of November on the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jingping.  

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad today (Saturday), he said the invitation was extended by the Chinese President to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on the sidelines of SCO meeting. 

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin has also invited the Prime Minister to visit Moscow and this visit will also take place.

The Defence Minister said the Chinese President, during his meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, recognized him as an efficient and pragmatic leader, and expressed the commitment to vigorously take forward the CPEC project. He said Xi Jinping described Pakistan as an all-weather strategic friend.   

Khawaja Asif said the Russian President, during his meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, appreciated Pakistan's position on Ukraine. He said Russia has shown willingness to export wheat and gas to Pakistan.

The Defence Minister said the SCO members have expressed readiness to support and cooperate with Pakistan faced with the unprecedented floods.  

Sat, 15 Oct 2022 16:58:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : What the West Gets Wrong About the SCO

Leaders of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on Sept 15-16 for an annual summit. It is becoming a common trope in mainstream Western media and think tanks to describe the SCO as an “anti-Western,” “anti-American,” “anti-NATO,” and “authoritarian” bloc, or even just an “ineffective talk shop.” While there is a hint of truth to each of these labels, they do not provide a clear picture. These labels reductively distort the SCO’s multi-layered nature as a platform and lead to misguided policies.

The problem arises from different conceptualizations of “security.” Western references to the SCO reduce security to a commonsensical notion of geopolitics as “hard,” or military power (hence, the NATO comparisons). The conception of security at the core of the SCO’s mission is much broader. Driven by China’s multi-faceted discourse on security, this conception subsumes not only hard geopolitical security but also geoeconomic development. The latter is a long-term strategy that might be called “security through development” that affects all SCO member states’ global and regional strategies.

In the past two decades, there has been no shortage of geoeconomic initiatives intersecting with the SCO, including China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC, driven by Iran, Russia, India, and Azerbaijan), and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The SCO is increasingly becoming a platform to facilitate the materialization of these initiatives.

More precisely, the SCO has evolved into a platform for sociality. There are two types of processes bonding SCO countries together: one is negative short-term bonding based on common geopolitical grievances (such as sanctions or NATO-related concerns) against the West, mainly the United States. This bonding is surface level and receives considerable media coverage in the West. Second, and more importantly, there is the long-term positive geoeconomic bonding that takes place through infrastructure initiatives. Infrastructure cements relations, both literally and metaphorically, between all SCO-affiliated actors, including member states, observer states, and dialogue partner states.

Unlike negative geopolitical bonding, geoeconomic bonding does not get enough (if any) media coverage. Nor does it define itself in reference to the West but to an overly romanticized conception of “Eurasia.” Terms such as “Eurasianism,” “continentalism,” or “Silk Roads” have been bandied around to describe this loose community. Such a community, needless to say, is always a work in progress. Geoeconomically, it works through the alignment of SCO-related states’ developmental visions and strategies with one another.

Geoeconomic Dynamics of the 2022 Summit

While exaggerated analyses of the geopolitical bonding in the SCO abound, little is being said about its geoeconomics.

To begin, Chinese president Xi Jinping started his first trip since the pandemic with a visit to Kazakhstan, the country where he introduced the BRI as his main foreign policy initiative. This speaks to how indispensable Central Asia and Kazakhstan are to China’s worldview. In a thinly veiled warning to Russia (and possibly the West), Xi said that China will defend Kazakhstan’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.” A major aim of the meeting was to further “synergize development strategies” between the two countries.

After leaving Kazakhstan, Xi went on to Samarkand, Uzbekistan, to join the SCO summit. During the summit, China signed agreements worth $15 billion with Uzbekistan and emphasized the two countries’ “shared future.” On September 14, the day before the summit, China signed a long-anticipated agreement for the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railroad. After being dormant for a long time, the CKU has received new momentum thanks to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s desire to have alternative corridors.

When completed, the CKU could give China access to Europe—via Iran and Turkey or exclusively through the Turkish Middle Corridor and the Caspian Sea on to Europe. Thus China-European Union (EU) connectivity can be secured independently of the Russia-dominated Eurasian Land Bridge. China already has created one such corridor through Central Asia and Iran that leads to Turkey and Europe, the so-called “China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor.”

Just before the summit, China also started a three-month trial run for the China-Afghan Rail Corridor, which also passes through Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. According to the agreement, the corridor reduces the time it takes for the goods to go from China to Afghanistan from two months down to two weeks. Remarkably, this corridor bypasses Pakistan, China’s “all-weather friend,” again to avoid dependence. All these dynamics are brought under the umbrella of the BRI.

Overall, since 2013, the BRI has been the most significant geoeconomic force producing a sense of sociality among SCO-affiliated countries and beyond. In fact, all SCO member states (with the exception of India), all observer states (Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia), and all dialogue partner states (such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Nepal, Cambodia, Egypt, Armenia, Sri Lanka, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) have enthusiastically endorsed the BRI and more or less aligned their developmental strategies with the BRI. The SCO serves as a platform that gives institutional reality to this loose sense of community.

Iran also made headlines by signing the SCO’s memorandum of obligations to officially start its full membership acceptance process. It is expected to become a full member state in 2023. Under the new president, Ebrahim Raisi, Iran has clearly pivoted to Eurasia. Central Asia is no stranger to Iran as the two sides share many historical, cultural, and linguistic affinities. The region is part of what Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, refers to, rather romantically, as “greater cultural Iran.”

In a September 16 op-ed for China’s CGTV, Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian celebrated the SCO as the manifestation of Asian regionalism, continentalism, and multilateralism. He went on to boast of Iran’s geographic location in the middle of the SCO’s “like-minded” countries—an obviously exaggerated term. He referred to Rudaki, the Persian poet of the nine century from Samarkand, to point to the cultural and historical affinities between the two countries.

Those affinities are slowly being cemented through transport infrastructure and trade. During this summit, Iran and Uzbekistan signed seventeen memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and agreements covering a host of issues such as energy, transit, sports, and science cooperation. Arguably the most important motivation for landlocked Uzbekistan and other Central Asian actors is to gain access to international waters via the Iranian port of Chabahar, which India (another SCO member) has been investing in and modernizing to overcome its own geoeconomic challenges.

India needs Chabahar to gain connectivity to the Eurasian landmass via Iran. Pakistan, another SCO member which does not exactly find India to be a “like-minded” partner, has denied the latter access to transit routes via its land. In his speech at the SCO meeting, Indian leader Modi implicitly criticized Pakistan for denying India “full transit rights,” which are necessary for resilient supply chains.

Global supply chains were disrupted thanks to Covid-19 and the Russo-Ukrainian War. In a March 18 article, I predicted that INSTC would become indispensable for Russia, Iran, and India. Isolated from Western geography, Russia would need this initiative to redirect its geoeconomic orientation towards the east and south. It did not take long for that prediction to come true.

When the initial fog of war settled in Ukraine, the three countries started rapidly revamping the INSTC, Russia being the most desperate. Their efforts have recently involved Azerbaijan, an SCO dialogue partner, as well. On September 9, Iran, Russia, and Azerbaijan held their first trilateral meeting to ink a joint declaration on the development of INSTC and announced their intention to construct the Rasht-Astara Railway in northern Iran, which still needs to be built for INSTC to become fully functional. The countries also announced their intention of linking INSTC to the port of Chabahar.

During the SCO summit, Vladimir Putin also announced that Russia will send delegations from eighty of its major companies and corporations to Iran for trade deals. There has been a flurry of bilateral trade visits and agreements between Iran and Russia since the Russo-Ukrainian War started.

Iran is also in the process of finalizing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EAEU, which is Russia’s geoeconomic initiative to bring former Soviet satellite states into its orbit. Iran signed an interim FTA with the EAEU which has been extended until 2025. Given all the above processes, Iran’s vision is to become the SCO’s transit gateway.

Iran’s relations with Pakistan have also warmed in accurate years, thanks in no small part to geoeconomic dynamics driven by Chinese investments. Pakistan and Iran are close strategic partners of China. The latter hopes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can connect to the Iranian, Turkish, and even European markets. The Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) railway, which became operational last December, should be understood in terms of deepening China-Pakistan-Iran connectivity.

Geoeconomics and Geopolitics

There is much more to be said about the SCO’s geoeconomics. The preceding was only a limited number of examples to show that the SCO cannot be reduced to geopolitics alone. The SCO is a platform where a geoeconomic project of sociality is unfolding. This project produces romanticized notions of the self, others, the region, and the continent; “Silk Roads” is increasingly becoming such an overly romanticized trope.

Fri, 23 Sep 2022 12:01:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : How Pakistan can further leverage SCO in 2022 and beyond?

SCO members represent nearly half of globe’s population, quarter of planet’s GDP and roughly 80% of Eurasian landmass

The writer is a senior consultant, foreign policy expert and a columnist. He can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets @OzerKhalid

The yearly 2022 summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) — a Eurasian political, economic, and security organisation — took place on September 15-16 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan under the chairmanship of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Priority areas highlighted for the SCO in 2023 included enhancing the authority of SCO, striving towards region-wide peace and poverty-mitigation with food and water security. More intense trade between SCO members via the removal of trade barriers, aligning regulatory regimes and digitalisation of customs processes were also explored. SCO members represent nearly half the globe’s population, a quarter of our planet’s GDP and roughly 80% of Eurasian landmass.

The SCO Charter enhances regional peace and stability, and regional linkages in the economic, infrastructure, trade and cultural arenas, neatly aligning with Islamabad’s aspiration for boosting economic connectivity and regional peace.

The 22nd Summit of SCO took place at a highly time sensitive moment. It is the first summit after Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The Samarkand Declaration of the 22nd Summit of SCO’s Council of Heads of State importantly appealed for further cooperation among SCO member countries with a focus on countering terrorism, extremism and separatism, especially important for Pakistan given the renewed TTP threats as the Afghan Taliban turn a blind eye. Pakistan endures militancy sponsored from the Afghan soil.

In terms of regional security, the SCO is an emerging security bloc where Pakistan has an historic opportunity to acquire the support of all SCO members in its counter-terrorism initiatives. SCO states are duly cognizant of Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices to contain regional radicalisation. The SCO Charter endorses the generational vision of Quaid-e-Azam for peaceful co-existence amongst all castes, creeds and religions. Hence, the Samarkand Declaration emphasised the importance of the consistent implementation of the Program of Cooperation of the SCO Member States in Countering Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism for 2022-24, signed in 2021.

During the SCO Summit, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met key heads of the member states — Uzbekistan, Türkiye, China, Iran and Russia. The SCO’s Pakistan delegation accentuated convergence that discards conflict and promotes peace at a regional and global level. Pakistan must further leverage the SCO to project its ‘soft power’.

By virtue of being at a geopolitical epicentre, Pakistan is the gateway of major global economies and emerging regional markets. It is a major artery in the new geopolitical order of Eurasia, and its being a strategic nerve centre suits great powers converging with strategic interests. Pakistan must better utilise, position itself and negotiate its national interests using emerging realities like energy, trade and investment, infrastructure and development aid (especially after the flash floods) to further its regional agenda, connectivity needs, and geopolitical and geo-economic heft in a befitting manner.

For Pakistan, the SCO must become a more active cooperative forum. In lieu of the devastating floods, via the SCO Pakistan can request economic assistance from major powers and further flourish through trade and investment. Owing to the floods in Pakistan, 33 million people have been displaced; 1,600 have lost their lives; over 10,000 have been wounded; and huge agricultural land and crops worth $50 billion have been destroyed. SCO members must offer humanitarian relief to Pakistan vis-à-vis the rehabilitation of flood-affected areas. Pakistan’s PM requesting the SCO to make Pakistan-specific climate action plans is a move in the right direction.

Food, water and health security is another domain where Pakistan envisages increased collaboration among SCO states. Pakistan is ravaged by the most devastating economic cataclysm in lieu of the flash floods and torrential rain. Climate change will likely increase intense rainfall in Pakistan. Islamabad must now quantify its specific national aid requirements synergised with the SCO Charter and imperatives.

In previous SCO meetings Pakistan recommended regional trade in local currencies to bolster regionalism and economic progress. The accurate sanctions on Russia already have China, Russia and India trading and executing payments in their own currencies as our world is increasingly divided into regional power blocs. As regional gravitational centres gain prominence expect the Chinese renminbi, the Indian rupee and the Russian ruble to gain traction with local clearing houses, money settlement for Eurasian trade, commodity deals and development of infrastructure.

China, India, Russia and Pakistan along with four Central Asian Republics stated that they “had agreed a roadmap for the gradual increase in the share of national currencies in mutual settlements”. Russian gas manufacturer Gazprom stated that Beijing will pay for half its Russian gas supplies in rubles and half in Chinese yuan abandoning the former euro and US dollar denominated benchmark currency for global oil trade. As Pakistan’s rupee fluctuates, its trade with Russia, China and Central Asian Republics will inevitably be explored in national currencies.

The SCO includes both Pakistan and India as members and can therefore act as a leading forum to endeavour to resolve the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan which keeps South Asia at a knife’s edge of war. In order to dislodge CPEC, India is promoting separatism, extremism and terrorism in different parts of Pakistan which runs anathema to the basic spirit of SCO. Here again, SCO participants can urge diplomatic restraint by India.

Pakistan must further lobby the SCO to promote an arms race deterrence, especially in lieu of India’s unprovoked BrahMos missile launch into Pakistani territory. Islamabad must convince regional countries to apply pressure on India to cooperate in a partnership for peace and regional stability in South Asia aligning with SCO’s scope and remit.

The SCO has the scope to do and become much more than its current incarnation and it is hoped that with the passage of time as a forum it will realise its full potential.

Pakistan can position its hard and soft power diplomacy at the SCO by brokering regional security and stability pursuing multi-polarity at a diplomatic level and economic progress at the state level reaping the merits of globalisation. There are numerous similarities in the SCO Charter and Islamabad’s foreign policy. As one of its permanent members, Pakistan has assumed a crucial role at this forum. Pakistan’s aspirations for SCO mobilise the Shanghai Spirit to fortify the forum’s mandate while minimising the perils of conflict.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2022.

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Thu, 06 Oct 2022 16:09:00 -0500 text/html
Killexams : SCO anti-terror exercise hosted by India concludes

The week-long multinational joint anti-terror exercise "Manesar Anti-Terror 2022" under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) concluded on Thursday at the National Security Guard (NSG) Manesar Garrison. 

"Representatives from the counter-terrorism forces of six member countries of the SCO, RATS, including the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russian Federation and the Indian NSG mutually shared their drills, procedures, best practices and other innovative methodologies to build capabilities and capacity to fight the menace of terrorism, separatism and extremism," official sources said. 

ALSO READ | India, UK begin two-week military exercise in Uttarakhand

The participants of the exercise were exposed to brain-stimulating joint planning in the simulated multi-dimensional terrorist strike environment and subsequently practised evolving drills for various contingencies of the anti-terrorist operations jointly, according to official sources.

The 'JATE 22' has further enhanced the coordination, cooperation and functional cohesiveness towards fighting common security challenges, particularly global terrorism and extremism. 

DG NSG, MA Ganapathy, and Director Executive Council, RATS, Mirzaev Ruslan Erkinovich,  attended the closing ceremony. 

A demonstration by the NSG showcasing its capabilities and special skills in conducting anti-terrorist operations was part of the closing ceremony attended by representatives of the diplomatic missions of the SCO member countries.

(With input from Jitendra)

ALSO READ | India-US joint military exercise Vajra Prahar concludes in Himachal Pradesh's Bakloh

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Thu, 13 Oct 2022 06:35:00 -0500 en-IN text/html
Killexams : SCO summit has created renewed awareness about potent threat of climate change: PM

SCO summit has created renewed awareness about potent threat of climate change: PM

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif says the SCO summit has created a renewed awareness about the potent threat of climate change.

He said this in a tweet while departing from Samarkand after attending the two-day meeting of Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The Prime Minister said the SCO countries have understood that the climate threat is capable of reversing all material development and pushing the mankind backward by decades.

He said the threat has provided a reason for a united front. 

Meanwhile, Analysts have hailed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's visit to Shanghai Cooperation Organization annual meeting and seeking cooperation in diverse fields including climate change.

Taking part in the programs of Radio Pakistan's News and Current Affairs Channel, they said visit of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to SCO forum is highly significant in the present context as Pakistan is facing the worst impacts of climate change.

The analysts appreciated the role of SCO in highlighting the environmental issues facing the world including climate change, global warming and flooding.

They stressed that cooperation among members of SCO will benefit Pakistan in a number of areas including security, trade and connectivity.

Sat, 15 Oct 2022 16:11:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : Pakistan to join closing ceremony of SCO anti-terror exercise hosted by India

The National Security Guard is hosting the multinational JATE ‘Manesar Anti-Terror 2022’ under the framework of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure at the NSG Manesar Garrison.

The National Security Guard is hosting the multinational JATE ‘Manesar Anti-Terror 2022’ under the framework of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure at the NSG Manesar Garrison.

Pakistan has been invited to the closing ceremony, on October 13, of the ongoing Joint Anti-Terror Exercise (JATE) under the ambit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) being hosted by India, official and diplomatic sources confirmed..

“The Pakistan delegation has been extended an invitation for the closing ceremony on the last day of JATE ‘Manesar Anti-Terror 2022’,” diplomatic sources said, which was also confirmed by other official sources.

The National Security Guard (NSG) is hosting the multinational JATE “Manesar Anti-Terror 2022” under the framework of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), at the NSG Manesar Garrison.

It’s understood that a Pakistan team is participating in the event as a member of the SCO, an official source said. India also participated in RATS meet that Pakistan had organised last year, the source noted.

An Indian delegation had participated in the closing ceremony of the two-week-long JATE-2021 hosted by Pakistan at the National Counter Terrorism Centre, Pabbi, in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, in September 2021.

The exercise is aimed at exchanging expertise and best practices, and build synergy between the Counter Terrorism Forces of the SCO RATS member countries to enhance capabilities for conducting anti-terrorist operations and countering other security threats collectively, the NSG said in a statement.

In May, counter-terror officials of Pakistan, Russia, China and four Central Asian countries met in Delhi under the structure as India assumed its role as Chairperson of the SCO-RATS mechanism in October 2021. JATE is an annual counter-terrorist exercise held within the framework of the SCO RATS.

Also Read | India objects to accurate visit of U.S. envoy to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

The statement issued by the NSG on Sunday said that Stage-1 of the exercise was conducted from July 27 to August 1, 2022 by the National Counter Terrorism Forces (NCTF) of SCO member countries in their respective territories. “Stage-2 of the Exercise is being conducted from October 08 to 13 at NSG Manesar Garrison, in which eight representatives from NCTF of Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Uzbekistan, Russian Federation and NSG of Republic of India are participating,” it stated.

The exercise will be witnessed by four “observers” from the Executive Committee (EC) of RATS and one observer from the State Committee for National Security of Tajikistan. It will culminate in a closing ceremony which will be attended by high-level delegations from EC RATS, including permanent representatives, delegates from SCO member countries, representatives of the diplomatic missions of SCO member countries in India, and representatives of international organisations collaborating with RATS SCO and national delegates from India, the NSG said.

The exercise will provide a platform to the participating member countries to enhance their operational capabilities and exchange experience in combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, which are common regional security challenges, the statement added.

Mon, 10 Oct 2022 14:49:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : SCO-RATS decides to counter threats from international terror groups operating from Afghanistan

The meeting was attended by senior officials of all the member nations including China and Pakistan

The meeting was attended by senior officials of all the member nations including China and Pakistan

The Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on October 14, 2022 decided on joint measures by member countries to counter threats posed by international terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the council of RATS that was hosted by India in New Delhil.

The meeting was attended by senior officials of all the member nations including China and Pakistan.

India's Deputy National Security Advisor Dattatray Padsalgikar said the meeting also decided to organise a military exercise called "Solidarity — 2023" next year. It is learnt that the exercise will take place in China.

"Joint measures of the competent authorities of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to counter the challenges and threats posed by international terrorist organisations from the territory of Afghanistan were approved," Padsalgikar said at a media briefing.

India hosted the meeting in its capacity as the chair of SCO-RATS.

"The Council of the SCO-RATS decided to organise and conduct a joint border operation with the forces and means of the border services of the competent authorities of the SCO member states 'Solidarity-2023'," the deputy NSA said.

He said the meeting also considered the course of implementation of earlier decisions of SCO-RATS.

"The work plans of the SCO-RATS Executive Committee, as well as the activities of the group of technical experts of the competent authorities of the SCO member states, expert groups in the areas of border cooperation and countering the use of the Internet for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes were approved," Mr. Padsalgikar.

India handed over chairmanship of the SCO-RATS to Kazakhstan at the meeting, he said.

Fri, 14 Oct 2022 02:48:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : How a Single Machine Revolutionized the Fresh Flour-Tortilla Game
This story is a part of Texas Monthly’s Taco Week, a series dedicated to proving that Texas is the center of the taco universe.

Aaron Escamilla remembers growing up around the family business, just as his dad did before him—working in the parts department, labeling boxes, and so on. The CEO of San Antonio–based BE&SCO, a producer of machines that make tortillas, 41-year-old Aaron took over from his dad three years ago, in 2019. Apart from a brief stint flipping burgers at Whataburger one summer, this is the only company he’s ever worked for.

On a sparkling late-summer morning, Aaron and vice president Stephen Reynosa take their seats at a long conference table at BE&SCO’s headquarters, in the industrial Five Points neighborhood just north of downtown, and wait for Aaron’s dad to shuffle in and take a seat at the head of the table. Robert Escamilla, 75, may no longer be CEO, but there’s no question who commands the room.

In the more than three decades Robert ran BE&SCO, he turned it into one of the most important but least known forces in the world of tacos—and, more recently, flatbreads of every variety—over a period when tacos became arguably the most obsessed-about food in the country. The company’s stainless-steel machines, most of which are small enough to fit on a tabletop in a professional kitchen, press balls of dough into flat discs, then spit them out onto an electric comal to be cooked and flipped. The largest device can make up to 1,800 flour tortillas per hour, but most turn out a few hundred.

BE&SCO’s tortilla presses have turned out fresh flatbreads in restaurants that run the gamut from San Antonio’s sprawling Tex-Mex temple Mi Tierra to taco shops such as Austin-based Torchy’s Tacos; for grocers including the national conglomerate Kroger as well as a certain beloved Texas chain (whose house-made tortillas are something of an obsession for many people); and in buildings belonging to some of the world’s biggest businesses, including Facebook, Google, and Disney. Even Harvard University got a machine. 

How and why this unassuming family business came to occupy a position of such dominance, with its products in over sixty countries, is a story of equal parts innovation and tradition. It’s a tale that goes back more than a century to when Robert’s grandfather—Aaron’s great-grandfather—moved his family from Durango, Mexico, to San Antonio.  

“We come from a long family of bakers,” says Robert, who cuts a sharp profile dressed all in black, with white whiskers. “We know what bread is, and we know how it’s supposed to taste, smell, and everything else.” His grandfather started a bakery in San Antonio in the early twentieth century, and then his dad started his own, called Pastryland, decades later—and that’s where Robert grew up.

By the 1960s, when Robert was still a boy, the bakery was failing. His dad, Elias, was more of a craftsman than a businessman, and in 1964 he decided his future lay in repairing ailing bakery equipment. “He was mechanically gifted, a problem solver,” Robert remembers, “so he started buying, refurbishing, and selling used equipment.” Pastryland’s replacement was called the Bakery Equipment & Service Company—BE&SCO, or Besco for short. It was a good idea, but by the time Robert was in his late twenties and working as the company’s sole long-haul trucker, piloting an eighteen-wheeler on week-long trips to Philadelphia and Chicago to make pickups, he started thinking about the business, which was taking in less money than it was spending. He told his dad it was time to pivot again and find something new. 

Around the same time, a customer brought them a tortilla machine for repair. The machine was enormous, and together the Escamillas puzzled over its design. “We figured there had to be a better way to make this, a simpler way,” Robert says. “And so, we decided to get into the tortilla business.”

As a native San Antonian, Robert was used to peering back into restaurant kitchens and seeing someone, usually a Mexican woman, hand-making tortillas—“rolling them out, rolling them out, rolling them out,” he recalls. He also knew how important a good tortilla was to a taco, as the vehicle for everything else and the first thing a diner bites into. In the bakery-equipment business, he’d developed a knack for devising new parts that could not only repair machines but Boost them in one way or another. So, as he weighed the possibilities for improving on tortilla-making, he hit on a glaring hole in the market. The handmade tortillas he’d seen so many times were excellent, sure, and great for small mom-and-pop operations. But they were hardly a large-scale solution for the kind of Mexican restaurants that were becoming popular as the cuisine went mainstream. Yet fifteen-foot factory machines were also wildly impractical.

Through trial and error, he eventually landed on a wedge-shaped design that could fit on a table and make use of gravity, so dough balls would feed in on one end, get pressed into tortillas, and slide out the other side to be griddled. “It’s just a simple machine that does what a conventional machine would do, but with a fraction of the BTUs and a fraction of the moving parts,” Robert says. It would make a few hundred tortillas an hour rather than thousands, but that was just fine for the restaurant clients he was targeting.

It was 1987, and the mostly California-based manufacturers of traditional tortilla machines—the ones used for mass products bound for grocery shelves—took no notice of the little upstart down in South Texas, even as it started to sign bigger accounts. Houston’s Pappas family was the breakthrough client. It started using BE&SCO’s machines at Pappasito’s, whose original location at Richmond and Hillcroft was an industry legend for the volume of customers and food it served daily. San Antonio’s Alamo Cafe, also an institution, signed up. Then Busch Gardens called.

After two generations in business, the Escamilla family had finally found its niche. Sure, there were large chain restaurants that would still buy prepackaged tortillas, but for any place that wanted them fresh, there was one company to call. Robert minces no words for the prepackaged competition. “You have no idea what’s in that tortilla to keep it from molding,” he says. “I’m not touching that.” Besides: “Are you taking your customers for granted by serving them a subpar product? Or are you giving them the smell of fresh-baked goods, the bite of that tender flour tortilla?” He’s talking up a shiny metal appliance, but by the tone of his voice, he might as well be wearing an apron and serving his latest culinary creation, piping hot and presented with pride.

Aaron and Robert Escamilla at BE&SCO’s headquarters in San Antonio. Photograph by José R. Ralat
An employee at La Loma restaurant in Colorado using BE&SCO machinery. Courtesy of BE&SCO

When Andrew Savoie was opening his restaurant, Resident Taqueria, in Dallas’s Lake Highlands neighborhood seven years ago, he wanted to serve fresh tortillas, but he knew hand-making them was going to be too slow and labor-intensive if his chef-driven taco creations (pecan-smoked chicken with pickled sofrito, crushed peanuts, and salsa macha; caramelized cauliflower with kale, pepitas, and lemon-epazote aioli) drew the crowds he hoped for. As a classically trained chef who came up through such powerhouse kitchens as Jean-Georges in New York City and Bouchon in Napa Valley, he knew exactly what he wanted in a tortilla, just not the ins and outs of the trade.

It wasn’t until he attended a food trade show in Dallas that he learned about BE&SCO. The company worked with him to modify some equipment to his specifications (he was aiming for a thinner, denser tortilla than the fluffy San Antonio kind), and within a week of altering his recipe to use vegetable oil rather than animal fat, Savoie was turning out the exact tortillas he’d imagined.

Today Resident Taqueria goes through some six hundred flour tortillas per day, and Savoie has developed a system in which his staff takes collective responsibility for manning the machine, so at any time it’s turning out tortillas fresh enough to appear on diners’ tables within minutes of being cooked. BE&SCO, he says, “has essentially cornered the market on fresh flour-tortilla production. I like to say there are three workhorses in my kitchen: number one is the tortilla machine, number two is the slow cooker, and number three is my employees.”

Savoie’s story parallels those of many other clients who didn’t know they needed BE&SCO’s help until they happened upon it. During BE&SCO’s pivot to tortillas, in the early nineties, the company attended a food-industry trade show in Chicago where the organizers gave them booth space tucked away in the basement, far from the crowds swarming the megabooths for Pepsi and other food giants upstairs. It was an international show, and at one point a woman of South Asian descent approached Robert and asked if his machine could work a product she claimed was very similar to a tortilla. He figured the worst-case scenario was he’d have to clean up a mess, so he agreed to try—“and it actually ran better than with a tortilla,” he says. The product was chapati, an unleavened flatbread from India and surrounding countries made with a whole-wheat flour called atta.

Thus began a whole new way of thinking about BE&SCO’s business. “Almost every culture has a flatbread,” says Reynosa, the vice president, a 39-year-old San Antonio native and West Point grad who studied mechanical engineering. “A lot of times those traditions go way back, further than modern breads.” Flatbreads are often fundamental pieces of cultures, just as tortillas are in Mexican and Texan culture, he continues. “Most of us grew up with Grandma making tortillas, and it was a staple—cheap, easy, delicious. Put some beans in there, some cheese, some meat if you’re lucky. And what makes a good tortilla? It depends where you’re from. In San Antonio, it’s very specific—fluffy and probably full of lard. But that’s just here.” Just as BE&SCO’s machines could make tortillas to match different regional styles, they could match different global flatbread styles—chapati, naan, pita, and on and on. 

With his engineering background, Reynosa has taken on the resident tinkerer role at BE&SCO that used to be occupied by Robert. His first invention, the Beta, improves on the old wedge design by dropping the pressed tortillas onto an automated comal that looks something like a spiral playground feature. The tortillas slide around the circle slowly and get flipped by a scraper arm, landing on a lower level to be grilled on the opposite side before emerging completely cooked, ready to be stacked and served. “The beauty of it is there are no chains or belts,” Reynosa beams, “just one motor to turn the whole assembly, and it uses gravity and physics for everything else.”

Aaron Escamilla, meanwhile, has made it his mission as the new CEO to modernize the business all around, from simply tightening up operations to taking care of employees, some of whom have been with the company for decades. BE&SCO makes manual and electric extruders for tamales, as well. Someday it might get into corn tortillas, if Reynosa can figure out a way to Boost on the process. But more important, Aaron says, is identifying more opportunities with existing machinery the company didn’t even know it was missing. “Finding out we could do chapati was not something that we really figured out on our own,” he says. “So what else is there like that? We have people inquiring daily: ‘Can it run this kind of crepe?’ ‘Can it do gluten-free?’ ”

Much of that investigative work involves traveling to food shows and other countries and getting feedback. About 20 percent of sales are international today, Aaron says, which leaves ample room for growth. But as the population of Texas—and the U.S. overall—becomes ever more multicultural, the same opportunities to diversify are available right here at home. After all, as Robert reminds everyone, it wasn’t long ago that tortillas were seen as an exotic growth opportunity here.

“When we were kids, if you brought a taco to school, you had to hide it to eat it,” Robert says. “Everybody brought sandwiches. But nowadays? Now the kids want to trade their sandwiches for tacos.” If in the future they’re also trading for Turkish wraps, or chapati with a little curry, he hopes, BE&SCO will already be there, setting the standard for flatbreads. 

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