India Intelligence Report

   SCO to Resist US?



  • 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.