06 Jul Iran’s Induction in Shanghai Cooperation Organization
This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Shanghai Cooperation Organization”. The topic “Shanghai Cooperation Organization” has relevance in the “International Relations” section of the UPSC CSE exam.
What is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization? Who are SCO’s members?
GS2: SCO as an organization of importance for India’s geopolitical interests
Why in the news?
Recently, Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as its ninth member at the New Delhi Summit of SCO.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization:
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is an organization formed by China and Russia in 2001. It focuses on politics, economics, international security, and defense in Eurasia.
The SCO is the largest regional organization in the world, covering about 60% of Eurasia’s area and 40% of the global population. In 2021, its combined GDP accounted for roughly 20% of the global GDP.
Membership of SCO:
China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan and Iran.
Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia
The list of current dialogue partners includes Azerbaijan, Armenia, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
Origins of SCO:
- The SCO was formed from the original ‘Shanghai Five’ alliance, which consisted of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
- The purpose of this alliance, established in 1996 after the Soviet era, was to address regional security concerns, reduce border troop presence, and combat terrorism.
- In 2001, the Shanghai Five welcomed Uzbekistan into the group and renamed it the SCO.
- In June 2017, SCO expanded to eight states, with India and Pakistan.
- Iran joined the group in July 2023.
- The SCO is governed by the Heads of State Council (HSC), its supreme decision-making body, which meets once a year.
- The organization is supported by two permanent bodies: the SCO Secretariat located in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure based in Tashkent.
- The official languages of the SCO are Chinese and Russian.
Objectives of the SCO:
- Strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among member states
- Promoting effective cooperation in various areas including politics, trade, economy, research and technology, culture, education, energy, transport, tourism, and environmental protection
- Making joint efforts to maintain peace, security, and stability in the region
- Working towards the establishment of a democratic, fair, and rational new international political and economic order.
Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS):
- The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) Executive Committee, based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, is a permanent body of the SCO.
- Its main purpose is to facilitate cooperation among member states in combating the three evils of terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
- The Director of the SCO RATS Executive Committee is elected for a three-year term.
- Each member state appoints a permanent representative to RATS to ensure continuous communication and coordination.
SCO and India:
- Economic Cooperation:
- The SCO offers India a platform to enhance economic cooperation with Central Asian countries, which are rich in natural resources.
- India seeks to expand trade and investment ties with SCO member states like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to access their oil, gas, and mineral resources.
- Energy Security:
- Central Asian countries within the SCO possess vast reserves of oil and gas, providing India with opportunities to enhance its energy security.
- India is exploring energy cooperation with SCO members like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, considering projects like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.
- Connectivity and Infrastructure Development:
- The SCO promotes connectivity initiatives and infrastructure development, aligning with India’s priorities.
- India’s participation in SCO-led projects like the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the Chabahar Port in Iran enhances regional connectivity and trade.
- Counterterrorism and Security Cooperation:
- The SCO focuses on counterterrorism cooperation, which is crucial for India’s security concerns.
- India collaborates with SCO members to address cross-border terrorism, intelligence sharing, and joint military exercises.
- Cultural Exchange and People-to-People Contacts:
- The SCO facilitates cultural exchange and people-to-people contacts, fostering better understanding and cooperation.
- The SCO member countries have initiated a rotating program to designate one city as the tourism and cultural capital each year.
- Varanasi (Kashi) has been designated as the first cultural capital of the SCO under this initiative.
- Regional Diplomacy and Multilateral Engagement:
- The SCO provides India with a platform for regional diplomacy and multilateral engagement in Eurasia.
Significance of Iran’s Induction:
- Iran’s induction into the SCO holds significant importance due to the organization’s recent focus on connectivity in the region, aligning with India’s connectivity strategy.
- Iran’s presence in the SCO supports India’s efforts to bypass land-based trade routes through Pakistan, which has hindered transit trade for India.
- Central Asian states, including Uzbekistan, aim to establish a multimodal trade route via Afghanistan to ports in Pakistan and Iran, providing India with additional trade opportunities in the region.
- Iran’s inclusion in the SCO enables India to engage in trade with Central Asia while avoiding dependency on China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
- Iran’s historical closeness to India and shared concerns regarding terrorism from Pakistan and Afghanistan strengthen India’s position in advocating for an end to terror safe havens.
Challenges with Inclusion of Iran:
- India may face challenges due to the SCO being perceived as an “anti-West” forum and Iran’s sanctions, along with the U.S. accusing Iran of supplying weapons to Russia.
- As India strengthens ties with the Quad, the induction of Belarus into the SCO next year could further complicate India’s balancing act between different international alliances.
Q1. With reference to Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), consider the following statements:
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an alliance of Eurasian countries, with Russia and China as its leading members.
- English and Russian serve as the official working languages of the SCO.
- India has been a member of the SCO since its establishment.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Q2. Consider the following pairs:
Country – Capital
- Kazakhstan – Tashkent
- Uzbekistan – Astana
- Turkmenistan – Ashgabat
- Belarus – Minsk
How many of the pairs given above are correctly matched?
(a) Only one
(b) Only two
(c) Only three
(d) All four
Q3. Analyze the significance of Iran’s inclusion in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) from the perspective of India’s interests.