India and Pakistan have gained accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) a regional security agreement that originally started between Russia and China. The SCO conference took place after the BRICs meeting in Ufa. The SCO includes Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, and has been actively courting expansion for a long time now. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the accession of both India and Pakistan will serve as a “springboard” for the SCO to become one of the most dynamic organizations in the world. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that “President Putin’s efforts will enhance the political and economic scope of the Eurasian belt.”
Most don’t believe India or Pakistan have much to gain by joining the SCO, where their voices will still be secondary to founding members Russia and China. However, the SCO is moving to include more and more member nations in the future, citing Iran as a possible target as well. However, the organization qualified this statement by saying that a nuclear deal must be reached before any application can be considered. President Putin spent the SCO conference criticizing the NATO-led military contingent in Afghanistan, citing its destabilizing effect on the region and potentially creating fertile ground for expansion by terrorist groups like the Islamic State.
President Putin also added Belarus to the list of observer states to the SCO, and most of his rhetoric at the short conference was directed against NATO – which begs the question – is the SCO the replacement for the Warsaw Pact in the modern world?
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- India and Turkmenistan on Saturday during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to push for an early implementation ahead of schedule for the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline which would allow for natural gas to be transferred from Turkmen gas fields to end markets in India and Pakistan. Modi called the TAPI pipeline the “most significant initiative in our relationship,” and that Modi “underlined the need to implement the project quickly.”
- Yesterday, Iranian FM Javad Zarif made a quick announcement that there would be indication of a deal with the P5+1 powers until tomorrow. Today, most are waiting expectantly for the announcement of another delay as rumors surface of barely contained tempers and falling apart negotiations. However, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that “I think we’re getting to some real decisions.” President Rouhani of Iran was quoted as saying “Even if we fail…we have performed our duty.” However, most diplomats have said that the two sides are “very close” to a deal.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has done an almost complete about-face when it comes to Chinese premier Xi Jinping, indicating that the diplomatic and economic “Pivot the East” is likely to continue into the future. He hosted Xi for the BRICS conference in Ufa and then additionally the annual meeting of the heads of state for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization event. However, Chinese interest has faded in both of these institutions, according to analysis by Aleksandr Gabuev of the Moscow Carnegie Center, with Chinese focus being more towards its Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB).
- Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has sacked several senior cabinet members over corruption and “serious shortcomings.” The three fired ministers were the Economy and Development Minister, a Deputy premier overseeing the economic and finance sector, and a deputy premier in charge of agriculture. The President said that these key ministries failed to assess the impact of the global fall in commodity prices on Turkmenistan’s economy, which is almost entirely contingent upon natural gas exports.
- With the Iran deal supposedly having its “last” deadline today, global oil benchmarks have fallen ahead of fears that sanctions relief will allow for a larger than expected influx of crude oil into an already oversupplied market, pushing prices even lower than they current stand. Brent crude and West Texas Intermediate were both down a significant amount. Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran in charge of the negotiations with the P5+1 powers, Abbas Araqchi said that negotiations will likely need to continue on the crucial point of sanctions relief.
- Some four key agreements were signed between India and Kyrgyzstan over the weekend, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bishkek on his tour of Central Asia. The first is an agreement on defense cooperation, providing for a joint military exchange and training program. The second was a memorandum of understanding pertaining to elections, looking at referendum processes, modern technologies, and coordination of rights of election stakeholders. Another was another MoU between the Ministry of Economy and the Bureau of Indian standards on technical standards and understanding as it relates to bilateral trade, opening the door for future trade cooperation.
- Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on his whirlwind tour of Central Asia over the weekend has asked Tajikistan for the lease of an old Soviet airbase at Ayni in Tajikistan that was refurbished in 2007 by India but could not base any fighters or helicopters there due to Russia pressure. Former Air Chief Marshal PV Naik of India commented that getting an airbase in Central Asia was a “significant development,” particularly in the face of renewed cooperation on a military and economic level with Russia.