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Iran in the SCO


Recently, Prime Minister welcomed Iran as the newest member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at the virtual summit of the grouping.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
  2. Iran’s Membership in the SCO
  3. India’s Delicate Balancing Act

About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

  • The grouping came into existence in Shanghai in 2001 with six members, minus India and Pakistan.
  • Its primary objective was to enhance regional cooperation for efforts to curb terrorism, separatism, and extremism in the Central Asian region.
  • Prior to Iran’s joining, the SCO consisted of eight member countries: China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and the four Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia enjoy Observer status in the SCO, while six other countries — Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka — have Dialogue Partner status.

Iran’s Membership in the SCO

  • The case for Iran’s full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has been discussed for several years.
  • In 2016, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin stated that Iran’s nuclear issue being resolved and UN sanctions lifted would pave the way for its SCO membership.
  • However, the US, led by President Donald Trump, withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, rendering the agreement ineffective and impacting Iran’s SCO aspirations.
Changing Geopolitical Landscape:
  • The US’s chaotic exit from Afghanistan has created opportunities for Chinese influence and investments in Central Asia.
  • China has strengthened strategic ties with Pakistan and displayed assertiveness on the global stage.
  • Amid the Ukraine conflict and deteriorating Western-Russian relations, China has declared a strong friendship with Moscow.
  • Iran has expanded its outreach beyond traditional ally Russia, signing a China-brokered deal to re-establish relations with Saudi Arabia.
  • A border market was opened between Iran and Pakistan, despite historical distance.
China’s Interest in Iran’s SCO Membership:
  • For China, Iran’s SCO inclusion is reassuring amid escalating rivalry with the US.
  • China and Iran signed a 25-year cooperation deal in 2021, including collaboration in the oil sector.
  • Chinese private refiners are purchasing more Iranian oil as competition for Russian supplies rises in Asia.
  • Russia’s Perspective:
  • Russia seeks more allies within the SCO, evident from Belarus, a close regional ally, likely to join through a memorandum of obligations.

India’s Delicate Balancing Act

Maintaining Balance:
  • India is faced with the challenge of maintaining a delicate balance as the dynamics within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) evolve.
India-US Partnership:
  • India and the United States have strengthened their partnership, reaching unprecedented levels of cooperation and trust.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently concluded an Official State Visit to the US, during which important technology and defence agreements were signed.
  • US President Joe Biden has emphasized the democratic values shared by both countries, contrasting them with Chinese authoritarianism.
Historical Ties with Iran:
  • India has longstanding historical ties with Iran, particularly in the realm of commercial relations.
  • Traditionally, India has been a major importer of Iranian crude oil, with Iran being one of India’s top energy suppliers until May 2019.
  • However, following the end of the US waiver on sanctions in May 2019, India suspended its import of crude oil from Iran.
Challenges and Considerations:
  • India’s shifting relationships with both the US and Iran present challenges in navigating its position within the SCO.
  • India must carefully manage its partnerships and economic interests while balancing the geopolitical dynamics within the organization.

Source: Indian Express

June 2024