Beijing signals Iran membership as Shanghai security bloc expands
China says it “welcomes and supports Iran’s wish to become a formal member” ahead of accession of Pakistan and India
As Xi Jinping sets out this week to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Kazakhstan, the security bloc is set to expand its membership.
Despite tense relations between the two nations, Pakistan and India are both scheduled to formally announce accession to the SCO this week. India’s membership in particular will test the cohesion of the organization, as the country grows wary of China’s expanding influence on its borders.
The SCO, ostensibly focused on counter-terrorism cooperation, has been described as an analogue to NATO. Current members include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
China has also announced that Iran’s membership will be discussed this week. Beijing pushed back on previous calls from Moscow to include Iran, but with Russia arguing that the lifting of Western sanctions on Tehran could open the door, China is changing its tune.
“China highly appraises this. China welcomes and supports Iran’s wish to become a formal member of the SCO,” Chinese assistant foreign minister was quoted by Reuters as saying ahead of meetings this week.