India on Friday said that it has submitted its formal application for entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that New Delhi is ready to step up its engagement with the grouping.
Swaraj, who is in Dushanbe to attend the SCO summit in Tajikistan, said that India was ready to step up engagement with the SCO and hoped that the grouping will be able to meet key challenges like the 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,” she 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.
The annual SCO summit, attended by the presidents of Russia, China, Afghanistan and Iran, among others cleared administrative hurdles to grant membership to India, Pakistan and Iran into the China-dominated grouping that is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO.
The SCO comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and has Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers besides 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 has been an observer at the SCO since 2005 and has generally participated at the ministerial-level at the grouping’s summits, which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian space.