Forgotten world (30): Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

Today let’s look at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. I know – you’ve never heard of it, but it is an organisation of considerable geo-political importance. It was founded by China five years ago. As well as China, the members are Russia and the central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Observer members are India, Pakistan, Mongolia and Iran. Japan is not there. The USA has been refused observer status.
In terms of total population, area and resources, the SCO is far bigger than the European Union or NATO. The total area occupied by the SCO member states is over 30 million square kilometres, or about three fifths the territory of Eurasia, with a population of 1.455 billion people, or about a quarter of the total population of the world. Also, significantly, member countries control almost a quarter of the world’s oil supplies.
The SCO is not yet a mutual defence pact, but it is heading that way. China’s president Hu Jintao states that the SCO represents “a new security concept”. The official puposes of the organisation conclude with the words “striving towards creation of a democratic, just, reasonable new international political and economic order”, but David Wall of Chatham House’s Asia programme calls the SCO “a club for autocrats and dictators”.