Iran says SCO members should
combine forces to resist US
SCO wants next UN Secretary
General to come from Central Asia
India keen to join SCO and
proposes focus on Energy; Iran, Pakistan agree
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) ended its fifth meeting last week
with a powerful message from Iran asking China, Russia, and other Central Asian
nations to combine their diplomatic, economic, and political clout to resist
the US. While the SCO explicitly says that it is not a grouping targeting any
country or grouping, it is widely accepted that it is China’s foray into
multilateral diplomacy to increase its influence with the US.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that greater cooperation among
member nations can “turn the SCO into a strong, influential economic,
political, and trading institution at both regional and international levels
and prevent the threats of domineering powers and their aggressive interference
in global affairs.” While Russian President Vladimir Putin called only for
closer military cooperation to fight terrorism, some observers see it as a
general call for closely military ties to stand up to the West.
The SCO also concluded that the next United Nations Secretary General “should
come from Central Asia” because the “unique historical and cultural traditions
of Central Asian nations deserve respect and understanding of the international
community.” It is interesting to note the stress on Central Asia although there
is no candidate fielded from that part of the world. Sri Lanka, Thailand, South
Korea, and India have nominated one candidate each and Pakistan is expected to
field one candidate to compete with India and possibly split the developing
nation votes. The SCO is a grouping of China, Russia, and Central Asian nations
and it is not surprising that China is placating these nations as one of the
major aims of this organization is to forge Chinese influence in this region.
Chinese President Hu Jintao expressed hope that the “international community”
(i.e. the West) will “respect the social system and road to development
independently chosen by SCO member and observer countries” and “respect their
internal and external policies of peace, friendship, and cooperation.” In other
words, the SCO is trying to tell the Western countries not to interfere in its
internal systems and not suspect its external alliances. He insisted that the
SCO was formed to consolidate “the foundations of political trust, unity, and
coordination among SCO member states.”
India sent its Minister for Petroleum Murli Deora who said that as a “victim
of terrorism,” India will cooperate fully with other member states of the SCO.
He also conveyed India’s keenness to join the grouping as full-fledged member
and suggested energy as a key area of mutual cooperation. Iran, which also
wants to be full-fledged member, said that it will be happy to host a meeting
of Energy Ministers of member states in Tehran to explore more effective
cooperation in exploration, exploitation, transportation, and processing of gas
and oil. Pakistan also agreed that the focus must be on energy cooperation but
also pitched for Pakistan to become a permanent member and volunteered his
nation to act as a trade and economic hub.
India was criticized heavily at home for not sending its Prime Minister (PM)
to the meet. However, Indian Foreign Ministry argued that it would like the PM
to travel on a larger mandate and not as part of a conference. Even so, this is
a major opportunity to network with other heads of state and expand relations
and certainly someone more senior could have visited the conference.
The SCO has six nations—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan,
Russia, and China as permanent members. India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan are
observer nations. Since there is no current mechanism to expand membership, the
SCO membership lists will not grow till a methodology is evolved.