The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was founded in 1996 under the auspices of China and Russia and was called the Shanghai Five, with the joining of three Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The establishment of the SCO was motivated, in part, by the objective of facilitating the coordination of diplomatic efforts between Moscow and Beijing, with the aim of fostering a period of harmonious relations. The strategic pursuit of establishing an autonomous platform for economic, political, and military discussions, independent from Western influence, emerged as a crucial element in the endeavours of Russia and China to diminish Western dominance in world events. Additionally, the organization sought to effectively manage the converging interests of these two countries in the Central Asian region. Furthermore, the organization placed significant emphasis on addressing the pressing issues of “extremism,” “separatism,” and “terrorism,” collectively referred to as the “Three Evils.”
During the US War on Terror campaign in the aftermath of 9/11, Shanghai Five transformed into the SCO, with Uzbekistan becoming the sixth member. Throughout the years, the institutional capacity of SCO has developed and “dialogue partners” and “observer states” have been accepted. Türkiye’s application for “dialogue partner” status was granted in 2013. India and Pakistan, two neighbours with continuous border disputes, were bestowed full membership in 2017. As of 4 July 2023, Iran’s long-standing membership process for the SCO was completed at the end of its 23rd Summit of the Council of Heads of States.
It is important to note that the SCO already accounts for approximately half of the world’s population and a quarter of the total global GDP. As a result, it is progressively becoming the umbrella organization of the Global South. Additionally, the SCO is ascribed with different labels such as “anti-Western,” “anti-NATO,” and “anti-US”. One of the most striking examples was “rogue NATO” due to the type of regimes in the organization. In this respect, the diverse array of labels associated with the SCO confers upon it a significant standing, rendering it appealing to both member nations and prospective candidates.