ASTANA: Capping a two-year-long process, India and Pakistan today became full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a China-dominated security grouping that is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO.
India's membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan's entry into the grouping was backed by China. With the expansion of the grouping, the SCO will now represent over 40 per cent of humanity and nearly 20 per cent of the global GDP.
As an SCO member, India is expected to have a bigger say in pressing for concerted action in dealing with terrorism as well as on issues relating to security and defence in the region.
"India and Pakistan are now members of the SCO. It is a very important moment for us," Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is the current chair of the SCO, said, making the announcement at the Summit of the grouping here.
India, one of the largest energy consuming countries in the world, is also likely to get greater access to major gas and oil exploration projects in Central Asia as many of the SCO countries have huge reserves of oil and natural gas.
The SCO had set the ball rolling to make India a member of the bloc during its summit in Ufa, Russia, in July, 2015, when administrative hurdles were cleared to grant membership to India and Pakistan.
The SCO was founded at a Summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the Presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
India, Iran and Pakistan were admitted as observers at the 2005 Astana Summit. The Tashkent SCO Summit in June 2010 had lifted the moratorium on new membership, paving the way for the expansion of the grouping that is increasingly seen as a counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
India feels that as an SCO member, it will be able to play a major role in addressing the threat of terrorism in the region.
India is also keen on deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.
India has been an observer at the SCO since 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.