India and Pakistan on Friday became full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit at Astana. India’s membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was backed by China. “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 in Astana.
Expressing his gratitude to the SCO for accepting India’s membership, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Though we have become a member of the SCO only today, our relations with the region have been historic.” He said energy, education, transport, agriculture, security, development and trade would be the top drivers in India’s ties with the SCO. According to Modi, the SCO will also be a powerful partner in the international fight against terrorism.
Speaking after Modi, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif congratulated India on getting membership in the inter-governmental organisation.
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, 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 was founded at a Summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the Presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. 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.