Context: Saudi Arabia has agreed to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a “dialogue partner”, the latest indication of closer political ties with China.
This is also seen as the step in the direction where Saudi Arabia can later become a full time member of the organization.
The Saudi-Iran Bonhomie
- By joining the SCO, Saudi Arabia’s security relationship with China is currently blossoming. But this relationship is nothing new and stems back decades before.
- The ballistic missile sales from China to Saudi Arabia as far back as the 1980s, with reported sales in 1992, 2007 and 2014. In 2021, the kingdom imported sensitive missile technology from the Chinese military to manufacture its own ballistic missiles
- Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude supplier, and China, the biggest energy consumer, met to discuss their ambitions for an initial agreement of $29.26 billion.
- The United States was Riyadh’s largest trading partner at $76 billion in 2012, but now China, India and Japan have surpassed the United States, with which trade was only $29 billion in 2021
- Saudi Aramco signed two deals to build a major refining and petrochemical complex in China valued in the billions of dollars.
It can be concluded that Saudi Arabia is seemingly looking to diversify its global partnerships in the same way that it has been diversifying its economy into non-oil sectors and reducing its dependence on one single source.
Reasons behind blossoming ties
- The US is distancing itself from the region as it is no longer dependent on energy imports from the region. It has itself emerged as a significant exporter of both oil and gas.
- The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia entered a fraught timeline since President Joe Biden came into office
- Joe Biden announced the end of combat assistance to Riyadh as it led a military campaign in Yemen against the Iran-aligned Ansar Allah, or Houthi, movement.
- With the Russia-Ukraine war and the energy prices soared over the conflict and ensuing Western sanctions against Moscow, Washington called on Riyadh to increase production, only for the Kingdom to join with Russia and other members of the extended Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+) in cutting output.
- America knows that its survival in the region is very costly, because it will remain under the strikes of the Axis of Resistance, which has grown and gained great influence in last decade, meaning that the American presence is no longer without cost, but rather the price will rise if US stays.
- Now reports have emerged that Saudi Arabia has begun talks to restore ties with Syria, which has been suspended from the Arab League since civil war broke out in 2011
- Iran the long-time rival has joined SCO and has showed interest to join BRICS as well and this has prompted Saudi also, which has been aspiring for the same.
About Shanghai Cooperation Organization
It is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation and was formed in 2001. It is a successor of Shanghai five.
Shanghai Five, a political association based on the Agreement on Confidence-Building in the Military Field in the Border Area and the Agreement on the Mutual
Reduction of Armed Forces Members: (SCO – UZBEKISTAN)
NINE countries are currently SCO full members: Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan became full members in 2017 and IRAN in 2023.
SCO decided to admit India & Pakistan at the Ufa summit of 2015.
India participated for the first time as a full member at the recently held 18th Qingdao Summit of SCO in China that was held in 2018.
- The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the highest decision-making body in the SCO.
- The secretary general and executive director of RATS is appointed by HSC for 3 Year term.
- The Heads of Government Council (HGC) meets once per year to discuss a strategy for multilateral cooperation and priority directions within the Organisation’s framework.
- Organisation has two permanent bodies — the Secretariat in Beijing (China) and the Regional Anti- Terrorist Structure (RATS) in Tashkent.
- SCO RATS: Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of SCO is a permanent body based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
- The objective of RATS is based upon the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism. RATS possess information on terrorist organisations and terrorists.