Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Prospects For A Multipolar World
On June 15th and 16th the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will hold its ninth annual heads of state summit in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.
It will be attended by the presidents of its six full members - China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - and by representatives of various ranks from its four observer states - India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan - and from several aspiring partner nations yet to be announced.
The SCO as an institution and as a concept represents the world's greatest potential and in ways is its major paradox as its capacities and their realization to date are so far apart.
Its six full members account for 60% of the land mass of Eurasia and its population is a third of the world's. With observer states included, its affiliates account for half of the human race.
At its fifth and watershed summit in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, in June of 2005, when representatives of India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan attended an SCO summit for the first time, the president of the country hosting the summit, Nursultan Nazarbayev, greeted the guests in words that had never before been used in any context: "The leaders of the states sitting at this negotiation table are representatives of half of humanity.” 
Former Joint Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces and political analyst Leonid Ivashov later described the significance and unique nature of the SCO in asserting that, "Contrary to Samuel Huntington's concept of the allegedly inevitable clash of civilizations, the conclusion drawn in the SCO framework was that harmonized interactions between civilizations and their mutual assistance were possible.
"The contours of an alliance of five non-Western civilizations – Russian, Chinese, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist – began to materialize." 
To emphasize the world-historical prospects of the organization, he added: "The SCO is supposed to be a special world without a clearly defined boundary, a world spanning the entire global space.
"The quadrangle of the new global entity – Brazil, Russia, China, and India – is already taking shape....The above and certain other formations are related to the SCO." 
The quartet Ivashov mentions above - Brazil, Russia, China, and India - has since 2001 been known by the acronym formed by the first letters of the nations' names, BRIC, the world's fastest and most consistently growing economies with the largest foreign currency and gold reserves.
BRIC held its first summit last May in the same city as this year's SCO summit will occur, Yekaterinburg, and will be holding the next in June.
Three of the four members of BRIC are also members or observers of the SCO, as are four of the world's seven official nuclear states.
As a Russian daily said in 2006, "The SCO is a momentous organisation which occupies territory from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean and from Kaliningrad to Shanghai.
"It may become the second political pole of the world." 
SCO members and observers also take in a stretch of Eurasia from the South China Sea to the Baltic Sea and from the Persian Gulf to the Bay of Bengal.
At the 2006 heads of states summit in Shanghai the presidents of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan - Hamid Karzai, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pervez Musharraf - attended as observers. Photographs of the three standing side by side appeared on numerous websites at the time and abounded in importance, both symbolic and substantive. The Afghan and Pakistani presidents had been hurling mutual accusations for years over the other's nation being the base of destabilization of his own and there even had been loss of life in military exchanges between the two states' armed forces.
Iran was the intended victim of thinly veiled threats of US military strikes. In fact the granting of observer status to the nation in 2005 and Ahmadinejad's attendance at three successive heads of state summits - China in 2006, Kyrgyzstan in 2007 and Tajikistan in 2008 - played no small role in thwarting whatever plans the United States and Israel have nurtured for attacking Iran.