Central and South Asians Pulled Every Which Way

As the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – SCO, gains importance, more forces seek to pull the group away from American and Western NATO influence, a reorientation which is spearheaded by Russia and China.

This was apparent at the SCO summit which opened Thursday, Aug. 16, in Bishkek, attended by the presidents of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The rulers of Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia were invited as observers with the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan.

There were nuances. While Chinese and other officials insisted the SCO should not be a military organization, the Russians declared themselves determined to disrupt US foreign and military policy in Central Asia. They were echoed by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose meeting with the Chinese ruler, Hu Jintao on Wednesday, Aug. 15, attracted interest.

Three days before the SCO summit, the two presidents appeared to be chasing each other around a number of Central Asian capitals. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources report that some of the regional rulers find potential Sino-Iranian military and diplomatic collaboration in that part of the world at least as disquieting as a possible Russo-Chinese front.

Indeed Moscow and Beijing marked the Bishkek SCO summit with war games held in Russia. (Read DEBKA-Net-Weekly 312 of Aug. 3: Three Super Powers Hold Two Separate Military Maneuvers.)

That all three powers may get together to carve out areas of influence in Central and South Asia may seem improbable at the moment, but it is an eventuality which the Central Asian governments find especially disturbing. To keep such a coalition at bay, they would have to turn to the United States for help.

In the event, the six presidents signed an accord “to strengthen partnership in the sphere of security and stability in the SCO countries.” They would examine “progress in the implementation of In the Program of Cooperation between the SCO countries to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism in 2007-2009, as well as to improve work of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of the Organization.”

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