- Iran has joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as its ninth member.
What is the SCO?
- The SCO was built on the ‘Shanghai Five’ grouping of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which had come together in the post-Soviet era in 1996, in order to work on regional security, reduction of border troops, and terrorism. In 2001, the Shanghai Five inducted Uzbekistan into the group and named it the SCO.
- The organisation has two permanent bodies — the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure in Tashkent.
What are the main goals of the SCO?
- The SCO describes its main goals as:
- strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states;
- promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research and 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.
Has SCO dealt with bilateral issues?
- India and Pakistan joined the SCO as observers in 2005, and were admitted as full members in 2017.
- Since 2014, India and Pakistan have cut all ties, talks and trade with each other. However, both countries have consistently attended all meetings of the SCO’s three councils — the Heads of State, Heads of Government, Council of Foreign Ministers.
- Despite the fact that India accuses Pakistan of perpetrating cross-border terrorism at every other forum, at the SCO, Indian and Pakistani armed forces take part in military and anti-terrorism exercises together, as part of the SCO-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure.
- Not only Pakistan, the SCO has also facilitated talks between India and China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) border issue.
Why is Iran’s induction significant?
- While the SCO’s original goals focused more on stability and security, recent declarations have put the focus squarely on connectivity in the region.
- For India, that has built its connectivity strategy through Iran’s Chabahar port, where it operates a terminal and through the International North South Transport Corridor that goes through Iran and Central Asia to Russia, the entrance of Iran in the SCO is an important milestone.
- To begin with, Iran’s presence ensures support for New Delhi’s moves to circumvent land-based trade through Pakistan, which has blocked transit trade for India.
- Central Asian states that are double land-locked will seek to build a multimodal trade route via Afghanistan to ports in both Pakistan and Iran. It also allows India to conduct trade with the region while staying out of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
- In addition, the induction of Iran, a historically close partner of India that has also suffered from terrorism emanating from Pakistan and Afghanistan will bolster India’s push for an end to terror safe havens.