India signed Memorandum of Obligations — a key document — kick starting the process of its accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a powerful security
grouping increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO. The document was signed by Secretary (East) Ministry of External Affairs Sujata Mehta at the SCO summit which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- India will have to sign around 30 other documents in the course of the year to complete the process for membership. Pakistan is also being inducted into SCO as a full member.
- SCO’s membership is expected to help India have a greater say in issues relating to security and defence besides combating terrorism.
- India, one of the largest energy consuming countries in the world, is expected to get greater access to major gas and oil exploration projects in Central Asia once it becomes a member of the SCO. 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 in July last year when administrative hurdles were cleared to grant membership to India, Pakistan and Iran.
- 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 expansion of the grouping.
- India 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 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.
- Russia has been favouring permanent SCO membership for India while China pushed for induction of Pakistan.