While India is a leading candidate for membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Iran is not likely to meet the criteria decided upon by the six-member countries at their 10th summit meeting here on Wednesday, said government sources.
“The present membership of the SCO has framed certain rules. It has also decided that those countries who are right now observers, their applications should be processed. I am very optimistic that India will find affirmative response from the SCO,'' External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, leading the Indian delegation here, told journalists when asked about India's chances of joining the SCO.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was more forthright. “He said the SCO is not an elite club. This is quite significant. He basically spoke in favour of expansion,” said official sources.
As decisions such as these are taken by consensus at annual summits, there was an “in-built slowness” in the process, said officials. The process could take another year or more but that doesn't seem to bother them. As an observer, New Delhi gets to participate actively.
“This is not that famous G-8 summit situation when the Prime Minister was forced to say Observer countries do not want to wait outside the conference hall sipping tea. Observers in the SCO have a role in framing of the documents. The signal is we are very interested. The External Affairs Minister's presence shows this. We don't expect any deal breakers,” said the sources.
India has done some intelligence sharing with the SCO on radical Islamist networks but this has not evolved to real time transmission of information about terrorist incidents or movements. “Most countries normally hesitate to share intelligence till they have developed a level of trust. We should aim for a situation like where 15 Taliban fighters cross over to Tajikistan and this information is immediately given to Dushanbe helping the authorities nab them. That is our goal,'' said the sources.
Sympathy with Tehran
One reason for the criteria not having been made public was to avoid offending Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who was an active participant at the summit. The sources said, among the norms for enrolling members is the provision that a country should not have U.N. sanctions against it. Iran is under U.N. sanctions for allegedly not cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, the conference saw leaders expressing sympathy with Tehran and pointing out that the West led by the U.S. too should climb down from its position. The question being asked is whether the U.N. Security Council members, especially the BRICS countries, can bring Iran into the mainstream on the nuclear issue?