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Iran’s SCO Membership is ‘Win-Win’ Outcome for Tehran & Region: Ex-Envoys

© Sputnik / Sergei Savostyanov / Go to the mediabankIranian President Ebrahim Raisi
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi - Sputnik India, 1920, 05.05.2023
Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar told the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting on Friday that significant progress has been made in membership applications of Iran and Belarus. He also said that, under the Indian presidency, the SCO has made “unprecedented” efforts in reaching out to SCO dialogue partners and observers.
The accession of Iran to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) would be a “win-win outcome" for both the Eurasian grouping as well as Tehran on multiple fronts, former Indian Ambassadors have told Sputnik.
Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar, New Delhi’s former envoy to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia, stated that Iran has been a “very significant player and an important power” in the region.
He noted that, in cultural terms, Tehran has exerted its influence beyond its borders due to common heritage and civilizational ties with other SCO states such as India.
Sajjanhar said that in economic terms, Iran wasn’t only a sizable regional market with a relatively big population (approximately 90 million), but it also had huge reserves of energy resources such as oil and natural gas.

“Politically, it enjoys good ties with all the other SCO states, Sajjanhar reckoned, adding that Iran’s “strategic location” would be a “huge benefit” for other SCO members as it would “enhance regional connectivity”.

He also noted that Iran was a hub for the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a Moscow-backed connectivity initiative linking Russia to Iran and India through central Asia.
“Then, India is also developing the port of Chabahar, which will not only boost New Delhi’s trade ties with central Asian states but also help in furnishing aid to Afghanistan, irrespective of the government there,” underlined Sajjanhar.
Ambassador Anil Trigunayat, a former Indian envoy to Jordan, Libya and Malta, said that Iran was an “important Asian regional power” and would contribute to the “regional security and stability if it pursues the principles of SCO charter”.

SCO Has ‘Significant Potential’ to Change Global Equations

Noting that several other countries from the Gulf and the broader region were also looking to “closely associate” with the SCO, Trigunayat stated that the Beijing-headquartered grouping has a “significant potential in the changing multilateral and multipolar global equations”.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov takes part in the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting in India - Sputnik India, 1920, 05.05.2023
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Sajjanhar said that the grouping has punched below its weight since its inception in 2001. But its role has become important under the current geopolitical conditions, amid growing differences between the west, and Russia and China.

“It has 40 per cent of the global population and more countries are slated to join the grouping or have shown a desire to be part of the group. In terms of GDP (purchasing power parity), the SCO states account for nearly 50 per cent of the global GDP. It can contribute in a very significant way to peace, stability and security,” the ex-Indian diplomat noted.

SCO Can Help ‘Modify’ Governance Structure in Afghanistan

Sajjanhar said that the SCO could prove to be the most influential multilateral grouping to affect a change in Afghanistan.
The Central Asian nation has been reeling under a worsening humanitarian crisis, triggered by the freezing of Afghanistan’s federal funds in US-based financial institutions. Washington has accused the Taliban* of failing to uphold its commitments at the time of signing of the Doha Agreement in 2020.
Regarding how the SCO could help improve the situation in Afghanistan, given that the SCO nations share a contiguous border with the country, Sajjanhar listed creating an “inclusive government”, respecting the rights of women and minorities and not allowing the Afghan territory to be used by terrorist groups, all of which have been raised by SCO states from time to time.

“If there is any multilateral or global organisation that could play a role in changing the governance architecture in Afghanistan, I think it is the SCO,” said Sajjanhar. “I think Afghanistan would depend to a very significant degree for its well-being to the help and cooperation from the neighbouring countries, almost all of them being part of the SCO.”

Heads of delegations take part in the traditional Family Photo ceremony ahead of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting
 - Sputnik India, 1920, 05.05.2023
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* under UN sanctions for terrorism