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:
- About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
- Iran’s Membership in the SCO
- 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
- India is faced with the challenge of maintaining a delicate balance as the dynamics within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) evolve.
- 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