Iran Becomes New Permanent Member of SCO

Iran Becomes New Permanent Member of SCO

News Analysis   /   Iran Becomes New Permanent Member of SCO

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Published on: July 05, 2023

Source: The Hindu


Recently, Prime Minister welcomed Iran as the newest member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at the virtual summit of the grouping.

About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

The grouping came into existence in Shanghai in 2001 with six members, minus India and Pakistan.

Its primary objective was to enhance regional cooperation for efforts to curb terrorism, separatism, and extremism in the Central Asian region.

Prior to Iran’s joining, the SCO consisted of eight member countries: China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and the four Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia enjoy Observer status in the SCO, while six other countries — Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka — have Dialogue Partner status.

Iran’s Membership in the SCO


  1. The case for Iran’s full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has been discussed for several years.
  2. In 2016, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin stated that Iran’s nuclear issue being resolved and UN sanctions lifted would pave the way for its SCO membership.
  3. However, the US, led by President Donald Trump, withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, rendering the agreement ineffective and impacting Iran’s SCO aspirations.

Changing Geopolitical Landscape:

  • The US’s chaotic exit from Afghanistan has created opportunities for Chinese influence and investments in Central Asia.
  • China has strengthened strategic ties with Pakistan and displayed assertiveness on the global stage.
  • Amid the Ukraine conflict and deteriorating Western-Russian relations, China has declared a strong friendship with Moscow.
  • Iran has expanded its outreach beyond traditional ally Russia, signing a China-brokered deal to re-establish relations with Saudi Arabia.
  • A border market was opened between Iran and Pakistan, despite historical distance.

China’s Interest in Iran’s SCO Membership:

For China, Iran’s SCO inclusion is reassuring amid escalating rivalry with the US.

China and Iran signed a 25-year cooperation deal in 2021, including collaboration in the oil sector.

Chinese private refiners are purchasing more Iranian oil as competition for Russian supplies rises in Asia.

Russia’s Perspective:

Russia seeks more allies within the SCO, evident from Belarus, a close regional ally, likely to join through a memorandum of obligations.

India’s Delicate Balancing Act

Maintaining Balance:

India is faced with the challenge of maintaining a delicate balance as the dynamics within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) evolve.

India-US Partnership:

India and the United States have strengthened their partnership, reaching unprecedented levels of cooperation and trust.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently concluded an Official State Visit to the US, during which important technology and defence agreements were signed.

US President Joe Biden has emphasized the democratic values shared by both countries, contrasting them with Chinese authoritarianism.

Historical Ties with Iran:

India has longstanding historical ties with Iran, particularly in the realm of commercial relations.

Traditionally, India has been a major importer of Iranian crude oil, with Iran being one of India’s top energy suppliers until May 2019.

However, following the end of the US waiver on sanctions in May 2019, India suspended its import of crude oil from Iran.

Challenges and Considerations:

India’s shifting relationships with both the US and Iran present challenges in navigating its position within the SCO.

India must carefully manage its partnerships and economic interests while balancing the geopolitical dynamics within the organization.

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