At its most recent meeting in Tajikistan this September, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) started a formal process to grant Iran full membership. This will be the second time the organisation expands after accepting India and Pakistan in 2017 — now extending its reach from Central and South Asia to the greater Middle East.
Head of UNESCO’s Silk Road and Business Workgroup, said here on Tuesday that taking proper advantage of unique opportunity of presence in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and expansion of trade ties with regional powers will lead to Iran’s increased economic maneuverability in world.
Mehdi Karimi-Tafreshi told the IRNA that membership in SCO in which such big world powers as China and India are present will have lots of economic and commercial, transportation, transit, security, and even cultural privileges for Iran.
“The world is passing through the western to the post-western world, and Iran has welcomed the acceptance of its request for permanent membership at a block led by Russia and China, which is turning towards east, and can mean the opening of doors towards the large Asian countries and defeating the western sanctions, particularly those of the US,” he added.
The Head of UNESCO’s Silk Road and Business Workgroup said that ever since the beginning years after the establishment of the SCO presented his permanent membership request to that organization, which was in accordance with the legal and diplomatic norms initially dealt with as Iran’s observer status.
“The president is trying to strengthen the regional treaties, and to expand Iran’s trade ties the way it was with Iraq and Afghanistan during the US maximum pressure era, with the other countries, even in the framework of bartered transactions,” added Karimi-Tafreshi.
He said that the SCO member-countries’ nations have half of the world population and 20% of the world’s gross national production (GNP) is in member-countries of that organization.
Karimi-Tafreshi, who is a member of the Board of Directors of the Iranian Industries Confederation, said that the SCO has a bright future, as at least three members of the SCO, namely China, India and Russia are among the top 10 economic world powers, and during the course of the next ten years their status will even improve more.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has recently succeeded in turning into a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which enjoys military, security and economic significance internationally.
In the last day of the 21st SCO Summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the main member states of the organization unanimously supported Iran’s full membership. It is expected that such a diplomatic achievement will open a broad window of political, security, and economic cooperation with other member-states.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an effective regional and intra-state organization, which was established by leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in 2001.
Prior to the 21st summit, the SCO consisted of eight permanent member-states, including India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan; as well as four observer states of Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia, and Iran; and six dialogue partners of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.
The organization is of great importance because it has been established to strengthen regional security and stand against Western, NATO, and US unilateralism.
The SCO consists of 40 percent of land and one-fourth of the gross domestic product of the world, so it can provide Iran with a great opportunity to expand trade ties in the regional arena.
The SCO provides the member states with a bright future because it can help them end unilateralist policies and change the balance of power in favor of the East (Asia).
Joining the organization helps Iran foil American attempts to isolate the Islamic Republic because the SCO membership can uphold Tehran’s deterrence power. The change of Iran’s status will prompt other member-states to back the Islamic country in the face of hostile countries such as the United States.
Tehran can also rely on the multilateral mechanism of the SCO to upgrade its regional relationships and expand diplomatic and political exchanges.
Iran can use the organization as a platform to ink bilateral and multilateral financial contracts in a bid to evade the US sanctions. While the West has been trying to prevent Iran from attaining its foreign exchange resources, the full membership paves the way for Iran to use the assets.
China and India as two main member-states of the SCO can find a way to expand trade ties with Iran and import oil and gas from the Islamic nation.
The SCO has been connected to the Persian Gulf strategic area following Iran’s membership. Iran enjoys unique infrastructure such as railways, ports, and transit roads, which can play a key role in energy and commodities exchanges among SCO member states and other countries around the globe.
University professor and expert in international relations Nozar Shafiee believes Iran’s membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is harmonizing with regional approach, which leads to improving Iran’s economic and political status.
Iran’s permanent membership at the SCO is still discussed and analyzed by analysts with different mindsets.
One of the most important questions before the observers of the regional economic developments is, what is the tangible and sustainable benefit of the SCO for Iran?
Another question is, can the SCO be Iran’s assistant in economic, regional and international affairs?
In this respect, keeping in mind that two major world economic powers, that is to say China and India are members of the SCO, can economic convergence be pursued at that organization? Particularly more so, since today a world power like China is seriously at loggerheads with the United States both politically and economically.
To find answers to those questions IRNA has talked with Dr. Nozar Shafiee, a professor of international relations, and the former spokesman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, asking him about Iran’s gains from permanent membership at the SCO.
IRNA: Which event and background led to Iran’s permanent membership at the SCO after the elapse of 15 years?
In this respect there are a number of reasons, the most important one is the very passage of time. Fifteen years of membership as an observer member and requesting for changing it into permanent membership included the message in it that Iran’s being interested in having activities at the SCO was serious. In fact, when powers like China and Russia observed the incentive in Iran to play an active and positive role, and therefore unintentionally agreed with changing Iran’s membership status into permanent.
The second issue, which is also related to the same time elapse matter was that if the SCO had delayed Iran’s permanent membership request more than that and shown more resistance, then inside the Iranian political scene the question would ask that what is the necessity of joining the SCO, and why not move towards the western countries? That was a situation that two major powers at the SCO, namely China and Russia do not favor, and wish to have Iran by their side.
The third point is that some pretexts on whose credibility Iran’s permanent membership at the SCO was not acceptable are not weakened. For instance, the SCO used to resort to the sanctions pretext in the past. Today, with UN Resolution 2231 on the one hand, and the positive signs received from Vienna and return to the negotiation table, this mentality and viewpoint took shape among the heads of big and influential heads of powers within the SCO that the unilaterally imposed sanction by the US were on verge of collapse.
Meanwhile, it should be kept in mind that the rights and commitments in an organization are time taking issue. Iran became an official SCO member today, but it takes a two to three-year time in the legal process and internal commitments of the organization. Therefore, the scenario and option on the table is that Iran’s sanctions issue will be resolved within that period.
IRNA: How effective has the relations of the eastern powers with Washington been on this issue?
The other issue is the tension in China and Russia relations with America. The United States has put China under pressure in the west side of the Pacific Ocean with the agreement it has reached with Australia and Britain. In the eastern side of Russia, too, the same event is taking place in another shape. NATO’s eastward expansion and taking Ukraine into that alliance is a serious issue that has strongly worried Russia. Those issues have made China and Russia try to find new allied countries. In this respect Iran with its geographical and political status has high traction for the Russian and Chinese politicians.
IRNA: How much useful do you think Iran’s presence at the SCO will be in expansion of economic interactions, such as completion and finalizing of the Peace Pipeline, which is supposed to transfer Iran’s gas to India through Pakistan?
The practical usage of the organizations and the philosophy of their existence throughout history has been turning the threats into opportunities.
The 21st Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Tajikistan’s capital city of Dushanbe on the 16th and 17th of September was attended by leaders of all member states (Russia, China, and India joined virtually), and also by the recently elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s formal induction process as a full member of the SCO began. But there was no delegation from Afghanistan, an observer state since 2012 and the country that poses the biggest challenge to the SCO since its inception.