Tashkent: India on Friday 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.