India today said it aspires to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an elevation from the observer status it currently enjoys. "Our aspiration is to become full member. We are not sure of a timeline. But we have indicated that we want to be a member," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told reporters in the Kyrgyzstan capital.
India has been an observer at the SCO since 2005 and has generally participated at the ministerial-level at summits. The SCO focusses on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian space. The precursor of the SCO was the "Shanghai Five" constituted by China in 1996 to address border security issues with four of its neighbours.
In its present form, SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the Presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. At the 2005 Astana Summit, India, Iran and Pakistan were admitted as observers. The Tashkent SCO Summit in June 2010 lifted the moratorium on new membership, paving the way for expansion of the regional grouping.
Khurshid, here to attend the SCO meet, met Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev and Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev, who gave a strong indication that India should play a larger role in the development of their country.
Issues of political, defence and development partnership were discussed at the meeting. The two sides also held talks on greater air connectivity.