Why is Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Expanding?

Since the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, for the first time, SCO seems to be expanding. At the Council of Heads of SCO member states meet in Astana it was announced that arch rivals Pakistan and India will be given full membership.

Their accession marked the “new history” of the organization, and the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev also noted strengthening SCO’s influence on global security, as SCO had four nuclear powers. Moreover, the SCO member states – including Russia, China, and India now account for nearly half the world’s population.

Iran, which has observer status, also seeks to become a member of the SCO. After the lifting of sanctions, due to which their application has was blocked, Iran can also hope to become a full member of the SCO.

SCO’s goals are rather vague and include extensive functions of security and economic cooperation to cultural exchange. One of the main objectives of the SCO is fighting against the “three evil forces” – extremism, terrorism, and separatism. Although the SCO is not a military alliance such as NATO, in recent years, its members are actively expanding the military capabilities of the organization.

But different members under the SCO seem to have different objectives. For China, this organization is the integration structure to promote their policy of “One Belt – One Way”, which they have been aggressively working on. Under this program, China is actively promoting infrastructure projects that connect major centers of China up to Shanghai with the Eurasian continent. The Chinese are building roads, railways, oil and gas pipelines, thus contributing to the economy of nations that are directly linked to China.

For Russia, the SCO is more than an anti-Western platform to promote their presence in the former Soviet Union and beyond. And the expansion of the organization will only strengthen that role. Some experts believe that the expansion of the SCO will strengthen China’s influence within the organization.

“SCO will become more of a symbol of Chinese domination in Central and South Asia, rather than the structure, protecting the western border, as it was until now,” – said an expert on Central Asia. “It will be more used to Beijing’s plans to expand its economic presence in the territory from China to Europe.”