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Page added on June 30, 2008

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Toward A New Cold War?

In this case the most important reaction is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an organization that embraces one quarter of the world’s population, from Eastern Europe to North Asia, from the Arctic to the vast steppes and mountain ranges of Central Asia. Formed in 2001, its members include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran has observer status, although it has applied for full membership. An application by the U.S. and Japan for observer status was turned down.

SCO is, in the words of a Financial Times editorial, “everything that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger—who sought to keep Russia and China apart—tried to prevent.”
To counter SCO’s growing influence—the organization now has official observer status at the UN, and a working relationship with the Association of South East Asian Nations—the U.S. launched a “Great Central Asia” strategy to try and drive a wedge between Central Asian nations and Russia, and to woo India by playing on New Delhi’s apprehension of China’s growing power.

But, according to Bhadrakumar, the Central Asian part of the U.S. strategy is not likely to be very successful, with the possible exception of Turkmenistan. With the U.S. deeply mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says, “U.S. stock is very low” in the region.

Washington appears to have had more success with India, but New Delhi is clearly of two minds about SCO. On one hand, many Indians are nervous about the growing power of China. On the other, India desperately needs the energy resources of Central Asia.

India will probably try to chart a middle course, keeping itself free of political alliances, but making sure it doesn’t do anything that might disrupt the flow of gas and oil to its growing industries. For instance, New Delhi sharply rejected the Bush Administration’s efforts to halt a pipeline deal between India and Iran.

Whether SCO will turn into an eastern NATO is by no means clear, but the economic side of the alliance is solidly grounded in self-interest pivoting on oil and other natural resources.

Japan Focus

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