SCO is Shaping the Contours of a New World Order
SCO is Shaping the Contours of a New World Order
By Viktor Mikhin
September 26, 2022
The Samarkand summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) brought together representatives of 15 countries – not only members of the organization, but also observers and future members who are interested in its activities. The SCO now encompasses half the world’s population and its GDP corresponds to a quarter of the world’s, transforming this powerful international organization into a genuine alternative to the Western world. “The current polarization of the world with American diktat is presented with the possibility of an alternative, which is the SCO. The organization is very quickly reconfiguring the world, and the Arab world, for example, is almost fully represented in it,” the Times of India notes. Perfectly aware that the SCO is not only an outright challenge to Western diktat, but also represents a practical embodiment of the idea of the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world, more and more countries seek to join this authoritative organization and thereby reject the ideas and policies of the old outmoded world.
The summit ended with the unanimous adoption of the Samarkand Declaration of the SCO Council of Heads of State. In particular, it stresses that the world today is undergoing global change and has entered a new period of rapid development and major transformations, with an increasing trend towards a multipolar world, with countries becoming interdependent at a growing rate, and with informatization and digitalization accelerating. “The SCO Member States, in accordance with the principles of the SCO Charter, adhere to a line ruling out bloc, ideologized and confrontational approaches to addressing international and regional development problems and countering traditional and non-traditional challenges and threats to security,” the declaration states. Taking into account the views of the SCO Member States, the declaration reaffirmed that joint work is of great practical importance for shaping a new type of international relations characterized by reciprocal respect, fairness, as well as mutually beneficial cooperation for building a community with a common future for humanity.
The summit ended with formalizing Iran’s membership, which undoubtedly challenges old colonial policies of the West in the new world. Documents were also signed on the commencement of the admission procedure for the Republic of Belarus, on granting the Republic of Maldives, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, and the State of Kuwait the status of an SCO dialogue partner. At the same time, there fruitful dialogue is progressing with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and also Turkey, whose leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the summit. Turkey aims to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Turkish President said. “Of course, we are not members of the Shanghai Five. We are here [in Samarkand] as special guests at the invitation of the host country, Uzbekistan. Now the next process is a step to the most advanced stage of this work. With this step, our relations with these countries [SCO members] will move to a completely different level,” the Turkish head said. Many other leaders around the world are thinking of cooperating with the SCO in one way or another, thereby seeking a guarantee of security for their countries and peoples on the Eurasian continent from the SCO.
This postulate is most clearly seen in Iran, which, during its more than 40 years of confrontation with the United States, has now joined the SCO in order to have powerful allies such as Russia, China and India. Speaking at the SCO summit, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said: “Strengthening bilateral cooperation, especially in the field of economy is an important factor in improving the strategic role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in global economy.” Raisi called the SCO summit “one of the few” opportunities for dialogue to ensure real peace and cooperation at the regional level. In another part of his speech, Raisi noted that his administration’s foreign policy orientation will focus on “economic multilateralism” and strengthening the “neighborhood policy” in the broadest sense, as well as reinforcing its presence in regional organizations.
Iran’s chief diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian called the country’s SCO membership “strategic”, which will have an important impact on Tehran’s “comprehensive” neighborhood and Asia-focused policy cooperation. Iran’s membership, the Foreign Minister emphasized, was made possible in part through Russian support and diplomacy. Iran’s preparations to join the SCO first became known in mid-August, when Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, announced after a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, that his country would soon become a full member of the SCO. “Fortunately, the political obstacles to Iran’s membership in the SCO have been removed and Iran’s membership will be finalized,” Shamkhani wrote on social media in August.
Over the past few years Iran has been negotiating with Russia and China to sign long-term strategic partnerships that could shape its foreign policy for decades to come. By joining the SCO, Tehran has moved closer to completing this partnership and has advanced its new Asia-centered foreign policy, which rests on two pillars: strengthening ties with its neighbors and establishing strategic partnerships with non-Western powers.
The Spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, stressed this new policy: “Warmly welcome the decision of the SCO to approve Iran’s full membership. A major step toward enhanced ties with neighbors & an important impetus for our Asia-centered foreign policy. We’ll continue our efforts to build on indigenous initiatives for the good of the region.”
Moscow warmly welcomed Iran’s full membership in the organization. Vladimir Putin stressed that there should be a new “grand” agreement between Russia and Iran, as the countries seek to strengthen their strategic relationship, which has already grown markedly. It should be said that the level of trade between Tehran and Moscow increased by 81% last year and by a further 30% this half-year. Strengthening relations with Russia, according to Iran, is seen as a countermeasure, since the prospect of resuming the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) seems uncertain, based on the recent reaction of the United States.
Tehran’s accession to the SCO is already bearing fruit. There was a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi on the sidelines of the 22nd Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, during which Ebrahim Raisi said strengthening ties with New Delhi was a foreign policy priority for Tehran, describing the current relations between the two countries as friendly. The Iranian President said both countries could develop their relations and expand cooperation by exploiting existing opportunities in oil, gas and transport (especially along the Chabahar-Central Asia route, which connects the Indian Ocean with Central Asia). Indian Prime Minister Modi, for his part, has expressed New Delhi’s opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran. He stressed the importance of Chabahar Port in southern Iran for cargo transport and development in the region. Modi also pointed to common Iranian and Indian positions on developments in Afghanistan and called for continued regional and international cooperation with Iran on the issue.
The SCO, for its part, can count on considerable assistance in developing the North-South transport corridor, where the Iranians have already invested heavily. In addition, the China-Central Asia-West Asia-Mediterranean corridor, with its high potential, is now described as “an important part of the solution” for developing trade between East and West Eurasia. With the cooperation of the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the necessary conditions can be ensured for the implementation of this corridor and for members to benefit from it. Joint infrastructure financing of the North-South as well as the China-West Asia-Mediterranean corridors and a joint role in their implementation and management could be proposed as a solution in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization format. The transport and transit network of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as Iranian port facilities in the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean, will serve to strengthen transport within the SCO.
Undoubtedly, energy convergence within the SCO will make a significant contribution to further economic development and ultimately to reducing the costs of security and the economy, as well as to stability in the region and beyond. The Islamic Republic of Iran benefits greatly from its unique opportunities, such as its proximity to two of the world’s largest oil and hydrocarbon deposits, i.e. the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. In addition, the Iranians have an extensive oil and gas transportation network and a suitable location for transit, as well as a skilled labor force. Thanks to these advantages, Iran is ready to play an efficient role in this area and to address the concerns of SCO members in ensuring security of energy supply.
The key element in the SCO is economic development, and the organization creates favorable conditions for all its members, including Russia. “The most important thing everywhere and always is economic development. And the SCO, cooperation with the SCO countries creates conditions for development of the Russian economy, hence the social sphere and solving the tasks that stand in the way of improving the living standards of our citizens,” Vladimir Putin stated. And this opinion can hardly be challenged.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.