India and Pakistan begin accession to Shanghai Cooperation Organization

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?

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News Briefs:

  • 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).
  • 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.
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