India and Pakistan in, Iran out of SCO?
Iran will not be joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization when the group holds its summit next week in Tashkent. That's according to Itar-Tass, according to an unnamed Russian source:
Iran applied in 2008 to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a security and defense bloc led by Beijing and Moscow and seen as a counterweight to NATO.
The SCO has not officially given a verdict on the Iranian application but Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency quoted the source, speaking during a meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Uzbekistan, as saying that sanctions were an obstacle.
""A country which wants to become a member of the SCO cannot be subject to UN Security Council sanctions,"" the Russian source said.
The group formally agreed to a means of admitting new members during the foreign minister's meeting last month. Pakistan wants in, and Uzbekistan has lobbied for them, and although that story above says India has shown little interest in joining despite Russia's prodding, that may be changing. According to The Hindu:
After being unenthusiastic to the idea of joining the six-country Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in its first term of governance, the United Progressive Alliance government now in its second term is now keen on joining the grouping. “We are interested in SCO membership. It is a very important organisation concerning the region,” sources in the government said.
The government had asked the missions in four central Asian countries, Russia and China to explore the nature of rule changes for joining the SCO that are under way. India would take a view on joining the SCO after the criteria are adopted, the sources said....
An entry into the SCO will allow India to play a greater role in the region, besides helping to narrow down the differences with its neighbours towards a solution in Afghanistan. In fact, Afghanistan will be one of the core issues at the SCO summit, with Uzbekistan likely to highlight the insufficient involvement of countries like Iran and India.
For an allegedly moribund organization, there sure is a lot of activity these days around the SCO. It'll be interesting to see what happens at the summit.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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