The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers has decided to upgrade the status of India and Pakistan in the bloc from observers to members, which is set to be finalized during the SCO and BRICs summit in July, Russia’s Sputnik news reported on Thursday, citing Pakistan’s ambassador to Russia.
The news, although not yet made official, comes following a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs at the Kremlin on Wednesday.
“The council of ministers met yesterday and there is an agreement to allow Pakistan, along with India, to be upgraded [to SCO member states]. The decision of the council of ministers will be put forward to the summit in Ufa [in July],” Zaheer Janjua, Pakistan’s ambassador to Russia told Sputnik.
“We both [Pakistan and India] have requested for association with the SCO by becoming full member-states. Our application for a full member status is under active consideration. We are hopeful that this summit will endorse the membership of Pakistan along with that of India,” he added.
Following the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced: “we adopted recommendations paving the way for India and Pakistan accession to the SCO,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian government posted on Twitter quoting Lavrov on Thursday.
— MFA Russia (@mfa_russia) June 4, 2015
Lavrov also that Iran’s request for membership to the SCO was also reviewed and that “everyone favors raising Iran’s status within SCO as part of the settlement of the Iran nuclear issue,” the Ministry posted on Twitter, quoting Lavrov.
#Lavrov: We reviewed Iran’s request. Everyone favours raising Iran’s status within SCO as part of the settlement of the Iran nuclear issue
— MFA Russia (@mfa_russia) June 4, 2015
However, Iran is still under international sanctions and in the midst of ongoing talks over its nuclear program, with global mediators trying to ensure the peaceful nature of Tehran’s nuclear activities ahead of a June 30 deadline. Should talks fail, Iran is seen unlikely to gain member status in the SCO.
Iran, sanctioned by the U.S. and Western nations since its Islamic Revolution in 1979, has not been able to develop or export its oil and gas products. Sanctions were extended and justified over the fear that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. In 2012, the EU banned Iran from using SWIFT interbank payment system, which essentially cut Iran off from the global financial world.
The SCO, a Eurasian political, economic, and military alliance was founded in 2001 and currently comprises of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
India, Mongolia, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, currently hold observer status with the SCO.
Moscow has made a recent push for India’s full membership in the SCO saying that it would take all the necessary steps to secure a positive decision.
Moscow and New Delhi have been in talks for the construction of a pipeline said to cost $40 billion to deliver Russian natural gas to India.
Ties between India and BRICs countries have been on the rise, most notably in December of last year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin made a trip to India where 20 high-profile deals worth $100 billion were signed with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the span of under 24 hours.
In May, during Modi’s inaugural visit to China as PM of India, the two countries signed 50 deals worth around $32 Billion.
The Central Bank of Russia and The Central Bank of India have also been moving closer to an agreement to use their national currencies for trade settlements.
India has also proposed creating a free-trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
But India has not been the only country of the three that have been making moves, both Pakistan and Iran have also been growing their relationships with BRICs and SCO countries over recent months.
In April, it was reported that China was set to build a natural gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan to help address Pakistan’s severe energy shortage.
Iran’s Central Bank announced in January that it was stopping mutual settlements in dollars with foreign countries and that agreements on bilateral swap in new currencies will be signed.
Tehran has also been in discussion with Moscow to transition to using national currencies in trade.
Iran and Russia are also in talks with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan to create a free-trade zone, an idea that was proposed by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev during the Caspian Summit in Astrakhan, Russia, in September 2014.
Tehran has also been considering several gas delivery routes to Europe — around 5 to 6 — once Western sanctions on the country are lifted.
Pakistan’s relations with China are also continuing to strengthen — following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Islamabad in April — as the two countries signed a total of 51 agreements to boost economic cooperation in addition to launching a $46 billion economic corridor that will link China’s western region to Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea.
Beijing also agreed to deliver another 50 JF-17 Thunder fighter jets to Pakistan, after already delivering 60 JF-17’s from a contract inked back in 2007.
Leaders of the SCO and BRICs will meet at a summit in Ufa – the capital city of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia – on July 8-10, 2015.