As the support by Russia and China has given a fresh impetus to the process of Iran’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, experts, interviewed by Sputnik, explain why Tehran and the organization, in fact, need each other.
India and Pakistan have been formally inducted as the newest SCO members at the annual summit of the block last Friday in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The SCO is a political, military and economic alliance between Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Belarus, Mongolia, Iran and Afghanistan hold observer status, while Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Armenia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka hold the status of dialogue partners.
Russian and Iranian experts noted that SCO is a unique platform for mutually beneficial balances.
The integration of such a strong regional player as Iran opens vast prospects for better security for both. Both Tehran and the SCO could collectively stand up to existing threats in the best interests of peace and development, not only in the region but far beyond the territory of the bloc.
Alexander Sharov, deputy head of Iranian Department at SCO Business Club, told Sputnik Iran has been knocking at the SCO’s door for a long time.
“Iran applied for membership in the SCO back in 2011 when it was very eager to become a full-fledged member of this organization. But then there were hurdles over the anti-Iranian sanctions imposed by UN [which were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal] and a number of preconditions put forward by other member states. Apart from Russia and China, there are other members and there is a need for a collective decision on the issue.”
Iran had certain hopes for President Hassan Rouhani, who wanted to connect Iran into the western globalization process.
However, Iran now sees for itself, the expert said, that the West is a closed system which does not accept any newcomers, neither on its merits nor the size of its assets, nor on any other ground.
Thus Iran is turning back to the SCO once again, as well as to other organizations in Eurasia, he said.
China also supports Iran’s membership in the SCO, and when Tehran becomes a permanent member of the block, it will open up large opportunities for the transport logistics of China’s New Silk Road project, as well as other transport routes, such as the North-South Transport Corridor from Russia into India and further into Europe.
It will also provide new opportunities for security, Sharov said. There are threats which are common to all the members of the organization, such as terrorism. By uniting efforts, all the member states could stop this threat, which is coming from the Middle East.
Guarantor of Stability
Mahmoud Shuri, senior researcher at the Department of Russian studies at the Institute for the study of Iran and Eurasia, thinks Iran’s integration within a regional alliance of such strong countries, can become a guarantor of stability and security in the region.
“There has been a long discussion on Iran’s full-fledged membership in the SCO. Tehran’s application has not been considered due to certain reasons. Nonetheless, last year it was announced that when the process of accession of India and Pakistan is over, it will be Iran’s turn,” Shuri told Sputnik.
Iran has profound experience in the fight against terrorism and is able to help the SCO member states increase security in their countries, the expert said.
Russian political analyst and head of the Middle East-Caucasus think-tank Stanislav Tarasov noted that Beijing decided to activate its support of Tehran in the wake of the recent One Belt, One Road Forum in China, which was marred by a high-profile boycott by India.
Beijing, Tarasov said, will try to exploit the SCO format in its geopolitical interests and for the practical implementation of its global One Belt, One Road project.
The SCO will get a very serious regional player with huge potential, the expert said. China will lobby its interests in the SCO while strengthening its influence in the Middle East. Iran, in turn, will get Russia and China as its main supporters but will continue playing its own card, given certain nuances in the Russian-Iranian relationship.
Thus, the expert said, Russia should come up with such a diplomatic move to be able to convert its traditional ties with Iran into the expanded trade-economic cooperation and additional investments from Iran through the SCO.
Ji Kaiyun, an expert at the Center for Iranian Studies at the Chinese Southwest University, stated that Iran is located between Western, Southern and Central Asia and serves as a bridge between Asia and Europe, along China’s projected New Silk Route.
Thus Iran’s accession into the SCO can strengthen ties between Central and Western Asia and connect the ground and naval routes of the New Silk Route.
Besides, the expert said, Iran is part of the Islamic world and has a very strong language and culture. For the last 30 years it remains the most secure and stable country in the Middle East. Additionally it is the closest neighbor of Afghanistan, one of the major sources of drug production and drug trafficking in the world.
Its accession to the SCO will play an irreplaceable role in the fight against drug production and drug trafficking and in combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, the expert said.