In June 2011, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an influential Eurasian regional grouping consisting of Russia, China and four Central Asian Republics (CARs)—Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan—formally approved a ‘memorandum of obligation’, which will now enable non-member countries to apply for SCO membership. India is an observer in the SCO and has expressed its desire to play a larger and more meaningful role as a full member of the organisation. Russia and the Central Asian states have always been very supportive of India's entry into the SCO as a full member but it was only recently that New Delhi expressed its desire to join the organisation as such.
On 17 August 2011, India's foreign minister said: ‘India's entry into SCO will not only add value but also enhance stature of the organisation… . This is an important grouping’. 1 He also informed the Rajya Sabha (‘House of the States’, the Upper House of India's parliament) during Question Hour 2 that he was in touch with his counterparts in the SCO member countries regarding India's case for full membership and had received positive responses from them. In this context, some key issues related to India's full membership and its options of engagement with the SCO require a comprehensive analysis. It is important to examine the implications of full membership for India in the context of the new rules approved in the last SCO summit meeting in Astana and to explore whether there is a case for India to join the SCO as a full member. What will India gain as a full member? What are its options in the SCO? And finally, what challenges may it face as a full member? Such an analysis would help India in developing a mid- and long-term strategy for effective engagement with the SCO.