International Relations

Iran becomes a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  • During the virtual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Prime Minister Modi welcomed Iran as its newest member.
  • For years, Iran’s membership has been debated, and recent geopolitical events have made it more relevant.

Concerning SCO

  • The SCO, founded in 2001, aspires to strengthen regional cooperation in Central Asia in battling terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
  • SCO Expansion Previous membership: China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan were all members of the SCO.
  • Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia have Observer status, while Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka have Dialogue Partner status.

Iran’s Membership Is Critical

  • Context of the nuclear deal: Following the signing of the nuclear deal (JCPOA) in 2015, Iran’s path to SCO membership was facilitated.
  • The changing geopolitical landscape has created prospects for growing Chinese influence in the region as a result of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • Iran has moved to strengthen connections with countries other than its traditional ally Russia, including reaching out to Saudi Arabia and building a border market with Pakistan.

Implications for Geopolitics

  • China’s interests: Iran’s energy resources and cooperation in areas such as oil are advantageous to China as it strives to counteract the US.
  • Russia’s alliances: Russia seeks to bolster its standing inside the SCO by forging ties, including full membership for Belarus.
  • Relations between the United States and India: The expanding alliance between India and the United States, as well as their shared democratic values, contrast with Chinese authoritarianism, providing a difficult balancing act for India.

India’s Act of Balance

  • Partnerships are being maintained: India has improved ties with the United States through large technology and defence agreements, emphasising common democratic values.
  • Historical links with Iran: India has long had commercial ties with Iran, notably through crude oil imports.
  • Balancing problems: As the dynamics of the SCO evolve, India’s shifting relationships with the US and historical connections with Iran provide challenges.


  • Iran’s admission to the SCO reflects the region’s changing geopolitical landscape and the growing influence of China and Russia.
  • India must balance its partnerships with the US and historical ties with Iran while managing the SCO’s shifting dynamics.
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