What will happen when India joins OBOR

India and Pakistan strengthen the Central Asian alliance

At the two-day meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which began this Thursday, Pakistan (whose President Mamnoon Hussain with China's President Xi Jinping in the article picture) and India are to be formally admitted as new members. The Beijing-based organization was founded in 2001, with members from China, Russia and the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The focus of military cooperation is the defense against terrorist threats, including those on the Internet ("cyber terrorism"), the exchange of intelligence information and anti-terrorist operations in Central Asia.

With the admission of India and Pakistan, the SCO becomes an association of countries that together make up 40 percent of the world's population. China's President Xi Jinping was quoted by the Uzbek news agency as saying that "the role and influence of the SCO will continue to grow due to its significantly expanded opportunities for cooperation."

Despite climate policy, the rich fossil fuels in Central Asia are attractive to India and Pakistan

Easier access for India and Pakistan to Central Asia

In fact, India and Pakistan are vigorously pursuing their respective infrastructure projects with which they want to network more economically in the region. India wants to invest massively in the expansion of the Iranian port of Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman in order to gain trade access to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, which has so far been more or less blocked by Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, has high expectations for its economic corridor (CPEC) agreed with China, a mammoth project worth several billion US dollars, from which Pakistan hopes to give a decisive boost to its urgently needed economic development.

"The accession of India and Pakistan to the SOC will give these countries easier political access to Central Asia. Given the important role Central Asia plays in the Chabahar and CPEC projects, this is not to be underestimated," says South Asia expert Michael Kugelman from Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington opposite DW.

Smruti Pattanaik from the Indian Institute for Defense Studies and Analyzes (IDSA), which has close ties to the government, also sees advantages for Pakistan and India from joining the SCO: "Membership in the organization will give both countries more exchange with the Central Asian countries Enable countries and increase their influence there, "Pattanaik told DW.

China's planned economic corridors

China is promoting its economic corridors

Observers, however, point to the negative effects of the ongoing dispute between Pakistan and India. According to the expert Kugelman, the tensions between the two countries have practically paralyzed the South Asian regional cooperation SAARC. The presence of China, however, ensures that the same will not happen again in the case of the SOC after India and Pakistan join. China is the dominant member within the Shanghai organization, followed by Russia.

Before the SOC summit, Xi Jinping presented a successful interim assessment of the supraregional Chinese investment strategy in the Uzbek parliament, which operate under the names "One belt, one Road" and "New Silk Road". This refers to economic and trade corridors that partly run along the Central Asian Silk Road, but also touch South Asia, Africa and Europe.

According to Xi, China's trade volume with countries participating in the "New Silk Road" project exceeded $ 1 trillion in 2015, a quarter of its total foreign trade. Chinese investments in these countries had increased by 20 percent compared to 2014 with 15 billion US dollars, according to Xi according to Reuters.

Chabahar on the Iranian coast to the Arabian Sea is to be modernized and India's trade with Central Asia is to be accelerated

Cooperation and competition for spheres of influence

Russia views Central Asia as its natural sphere of influence and therefore China's growing influence with vigilance. Partly as a counterbalance, President Vladimir Putin pushed for the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union, an economic bloc made up of five countries so far. So far, Russia remains the most important arms supplier for the Central Asian governments.

According to observers, the smaller member states of the SOC are positive about the accession of India and Pakistan, as they hope it will give them a little more leeway compared to the heavyweights Russia and China. According to the Indian Pattanaik, the "Central Asian states are always interested in a balance between Russia and China because they do not want to be dominated by Russia". India will take advantage of this interest as a new member of the Shanghai organization to increase its influence in these countries. For the South Asia expert Kugelman, however, it is clear that China and Russia will remain the most important external powers in Central Asia, even if the accession of India and Pakistan will lead to a "somewhat less one-sided distribution of weight" within the SOC.