New Delhi: Iran, which had an Observer status, was formally admitted into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Friday, Sept 17, at Dushanbe in Tajikistan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first to greet Tehran’s full membership, a fact widely acknowledged in the Iranian media.
The full SCO membership in the pattern given to India and Pakistan in 2017 would give Iran the key opportunity to take a major step in regional cooperation.
The new Iranian President Ayatollah Raisi had pledged ‘changes’ and the arrival of a New Iran both in a domestic and foreign context. Iran’s relationship with the US and the western bloc has worsened in recent times. However, the SCO membership makes it clear that any western attempt to ‘isolate’ Iran has been neutralised.
Experts also feel that India, Iran, China, and Russia can make the SCO an integrated economic bloc to rival any such groupings inspired by western powers. This is like a powerful square of four, suggests an Iranian expert.
The development can do a ‘balancing’ act in multilateral security, economic and cultural cooperation and checkmate the NATO influence in the region.
The significance of the timing is also important as the western powers were virtually humbled in the heat and dust of Afghanistan only a fortnight ago. As of now, Belarus, Mongolia and Afghanistan have observer status, but no Taliban regime was invited for the Dushanbe event as SCO members have reservations about the new dispensation in Kabul.
Importantly, six other countries–Sri Lanka, Turkey, Nepal, Cambodia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are ‘negotiating partners’ of the SCO, which is seen as a body controlled jointly by Russia and China.
In the current structure of the SCO, Russia and China work together on commercial exchanges and border control.
India has a position of its own both in terms of an economic powerhouse and science and technology. As the RIC and BRICS constituents, New Delhi has already been working jointly on issues of mutual concern with Beijing and Moscow.
The long-term presence of US forces in Afghanistan and hasty withdrawal made it even more necessary for the SCO to absorb ‘new’ security architecture and respond to challenges more independently, says Prof Fan Hongda at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University.