SCO summit opens door for membership expansion

By Sun Zhuangzhi
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, June 12, 2010
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The 10th annual summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on June 11 approved the procedure to allow more countries to join the organization, which marks the first step for expanding membership, and forms the basis for refining the relevant regulations; however, there's still a long road to formally expanding the organization.

The Tashkent, Uzbekistan summit initiated a program to admit new members in name only, until certain legal issues can be resolved, and the actual status of potential members can be carefully studied.

Since being founded in 2001, SCO members have strengthened mutual trust and deepened cooperation in security, economic, and cultural ties. They also worked to combat terrorism and extremism, the illegal drug trade, and transnational organized crime.

As the organization has matured, the issue of expansion has come on the agenda.

Currently the SCO consists of six member states, four observers and two dialogue partners. Three of the four observing countries, India, Pakistan and Iran, have indicated a desire to join the organization; Mongolia has not.

Yet certain issues among these countries need consideration. Indian-Pakistani relations have been plagued by decades of mistrust and suspicion, and no end seems in sight. The UN Security Council on June 9 adopted a resolution to impose the fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its suspected nuclear program. According to membership regulations, a country under international sanctions cannot be considered for membership.

Membership expansion continues to be slowed as SCO members differ on their national interests and foreign policy priorities. In addition, Central Asian integration continues to be hindered by historical grievances and conflicts of interest.

The expansion of an international organization is a complicated process. First, the organization must be a cohesive force and able to maintain cooperation among members. Second, the organization should have clear strategic positioning and development goals, and ensure new members help accomplish those goals. Third, the organization should work through multilateral cooperation to be productive and attract outside countries as potential members. Finally, the organization must consider the current international situation and avoid allowing international disputes to disrupt the organization's goals.

The author is a researcher with the Center of Shanghai Cooperation Organization Studies, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

(The article was translated by Ma Yujia.)

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