Dushanbe: The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) today set the ball rolling to make India a member of the security bloc which will give the world’s largest democracy a greater say on issues like combating terrorism and participation in major oil and gas projects in Central Asia.
The annual Summit of the SCO attended among others by Presidents of Russia, China, Afghanistan and Iran, cleared administrative hurdle to grant membership to India, Pakistan and Iran to the China-dominated grouping that is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO.
In her address, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said India was ready to step up engagement with the SCO and hoped that the grouping will be able to meet key challenges like scourge of terrorism facing the region.
“We have today imparted a new energy and momentum to our ties with our immediate and extended neighbourhood. Our government is ready to step up its engagement with the SCO and contribute more meaningfully to its activities,” Swaraj said.
“In keeping with this objective, we have submitted our formal application for the full membership of the SCO to the current SCO chair. We hope to lay the foundation of a new relationship with the SCO region which will draw strength from our ancient links while preparing together to address the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century,” she said.
Top officials said the process to grant SCO membership to India and two other countries will be completed within one year. The SCO comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and has Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers and Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka as dialogue partners.
“The summit of the SCO is taking place at a crucial juncture in global politics, with many nations facing violence and conflict. We need to reflect collectively on all these events of deep geo-political significance,” Swaraj said.
India, one of the largest energy consumers in the world,thinks getting the SCO membership will help it participate in major gas and oil exploration projects in Central Asia. The SCO has amongst its members three largest energy producers in the world – Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
India also feels as SCO member, it will be able to play a major role in addressing the threat of terrorism in the region. India is also keen to deepen its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) which specifically deals issues relating to security and defence.
India has been an observer at the SCO since 2005 and has generally participated at the ministerial-level at summits of the grouping which focuses mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian space.
Both Russia and China have been favoring India’s permanent membership at the SCO saying joining of the group by the largest democracy will add weight to the organisation.