Tashkent – The two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) ended its annual summit yesterday in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent with an agreement on rules to admit new members like India and Pakistan and with a warning to Iran. For the first time, a representative of the United States attended the event, a sign of the organisation’s growing influence on the world scene.
SCO was founded with the stated objective of fighting international terrorism and uphold the territorial sovereignty of its member states. Now it has become a privileged venue for political and economic deals among its members: Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. In addition to these nations, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Mongolia have had observer status for a number of years. Belarus and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners.
Yesterday, in a declaration SCO announced news procedures on admission. They include limiting membership to countries within the Eurasian continent that have diplomatic relations with other members and are either SCO observers or dialogue partners. Conversely, countries under United Nations sanctions are barred.
The latter requirement was clearly adopted in relation to Iran, which has been under new UN sanctions since 9 June because of its nuclear programme.
At the last moment, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had announced that he would be at the summit, decided to stay away.
In previous summits, the Iranian leader had been warmly welcomed. Last year, SCO leaders congratulated him on a disputed election victory.
In any event, the ban is formal and no country has yet to be admitted. For years experts noted, the admission of new members has been part of SCO discussions and expectations were high.
Media in India and Pakistan welcomed the new membership rules as a success for their countries.
Now the issue will be turned over to diplomatic experts from the various countries, but in some member states, doubts are being raised over the danger of bringing the Indo-Pakistani dispute into the organisation.
In relation to Kyrgyzstan, SCO called for calm and dialogue among the warring sides after dozens of people were killed yesterday in a deadly outbreak of violence.
The organisation also agreed to send observers to Kyrgyzstan to monitor a national referendum scheduled for 27 June.
Human rights activists in Uzbekistan were closely monitored during the summit to ensure that they would not use it to stage public protests.
Police, for example, called the home of Elena Urlaeva, a leading human rights activist in Tashkent, and told her family to leave town for the duration of the summit.
Reportedly, many of her fellow activists were also told not to leave their homes.