By Hossein Amir-Abdollahian
In today’s world, East and West have lost their traditional implications and in a way, have been replaced by regionalism or even continentalism. Hegemonic control and unilateralism are started to wane and the international community’s transition towards a multipolar world and the redistribution of power in favor of independent countries are becoming inevitable trends.
In such a situation, maintaining peace and strengthening stability in our continent, Asia is not only a choice, but a necessity. In fact, Shanghai Cooperation Organization could be considered as one of the successful examples of regional alliances. The organization formed by a group of like-minded countries that seek to maintain order and the new Asian identity without the intervention of extra-regional powers.
The outstanding role of this organization in the international relations becomes explicit by mentioning that SCO is the world’s largest regional organization, covering more than 40% of the world’s population, and approximately 25% of global GDP. The economic aggregate of the member states is around 20 trillion dollars, which has increased 13 times compared to the time SCO was stablished.
In view of the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always welcomed dialogue, negotiation and diplomacy with all countries, has rejected unilateral approaches, and taking into consideration the basic principles of international law, including mutual respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, accession to Shanghai Cooperation Organization placed amongst its primary goals in foreign policy which was realized in the outset of 13th administration.
In this regard, approval of Iran’s membership to the organization during H.E Dr. Raisi’s visit to Dushanbe, Tajikistan by SCO Heads of State Council in September 2021, was a diplomatic triumph which proves our dedication in pursuing a “Balanced, intelligent, active and dynamic” foreign policy and the initiative of ”Pivot to Asia”. This achievement will also be a milestone in the development of our cooperation with the SCO member states in all bilateral, regional and international dimensions.
It is time for the member states of Shanghai Cooperation Organization to furnish a promising future to the region’s nations by taking advantage of the huge capacity and opportunities of multilateral cooperation. These capabilities could resist the organization and its members against the political, security, economic, commercial and cultural challenges.
Investment facilitation and expansion of mutual economic cooperation which lead to sustainable development and stable security in the region, would not be feasible without providing security prerequisites. Therefore, in order to achieve this goal, security threats and challenges in the region, such as the critical situation in Afghanistan, should be quickly brought to the attention of the neighbors and member states of SCO.
The considerable economic capacities and comparative advantage in each and every member states of the organization grabbed the attention of the international community and provided remarkable opportunities for strategic partnership and extensive interaction among the members.
Among the valuable spheres of strategic cooperation between Iran and the organization could be transportation and geographical advantages of Iran due to the adjacency to the two important water bodies of the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf which enable member states and observers of SCO to connect to the global supply chain and transfer goods and energy to other part of the world through the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As the potential hub of the Eurasian communication corridors and the connecting link of the region’s infrastructure projects, the Islamic Republic of Iran can play a vital role in North-South Corridor and connect Central Asia and Russia to India. Iran located on the path of the most important and optimal corridor of “Belt and Road” initiative, namely the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor, and it can bridge East to West Eurasia. Throughout the past years, this route has been activated in the form of rail-road or combined transport.
The Islamic Republic of Iran in the character of a responsible member of the international community enjoys various capacities and capabilities in terms of regional cooperation such as sustainable security and stability, rich energy resources, unique tourist attractions, the advantage of geographic continuity and national solidarity, extensive historical and cultural bonds with the member states and observers, as well as rich cultural values that can prevent the growth of extremism throughout the region.
Among Iran’s top export partners, China, India, and Pakistan, are ranked first, fifth and eighth, and among Iran’s top import partners, China and India are placed as first and fourth. In the fiscal year of 1400, Iran’s trade with the member states of Shanghai Cooperation Organization reached 37 billion and 168 million dollars, which is about 30% of the country’s total foreign trade. The export to the SCO member states was 20 billion 596 million dollars, and Iran’s import was 16 billion 572 million dollars.
H.E. Dr. Raisi. positioned promotion of relations and cooperation with countries of the SCO region as one of the main pillars of its foreign policy especially with regard to boost and facilitate transportation and transit corridors.
Providing safe, stable and reliable routs on the North-South corridor and at the same time enjoying current infrastructures in southern ports of Iran especially the oceanic port of Chabahar, are among Iran’s strategic policies for the development of regional cooperation and the expansion of dynamic trade exchanges with neighboring countries.
Reckon with the principles of the Islamic Revolution manifested in the constitution, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s accession to Shanghai Cooperation Organization, is the flaunt of the country’s independence and in order to secure our national interests, considering dignity, wisdom and expediency.
To achieve this, during the past year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has implemented all its capabilities to coordinate with other relevant internal organizations and the secretariat of the SCO to complete the legal and administrative process of membership in the shortest possible time.
H.E Dr. Raisi’s attendance to the Council of Heads of State of Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan and the official bilateral trip and the signing of 19 important cooperation documents between Tehran and Tashkent would be a pivotal opportunity to advance the Eurasian diplomacy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The presence in the historical city of Samarkand, the birthplace of the great Rudaki, the father of Persian poetry, will bring double sweetness for the Iranian delegation.
The author is Iranian politician, diplomat and current foreign minister of Iran.