BEIJING: The heads of state from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries are expected to take Pakistan and India to the next stage in a process of attaining full membership at the Tashkent summit to be held in late June. If so, the SCO will move a step closer in expanding its membership.

Inclusion of India and Pakistan in the SCO membership was first approved at the SCO summit held in Ufa in Russia last year.

At the Meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers held last month, the ministers adopted a memorandum of obligation on granting the two memberships and submitted it to the Tashkent Summit for approval. So the summit to be held in Tashkent will be a key stage for the final decision.

During the Ufa summit, the organization also accepted Belarus as an observer state, and Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal as dialogue partners. Such moves, regarded as the most important organizational reform since the SCO’s establishment, will help improve its international status, and benefit its long-term development.

Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Huilai said in a press conference Wednesday that China, as a member of the SCO, welcomes membership applications from all qualified nations willing to join the organization.

China will also work with other members to study on relevant application based on legal documents on membership expansion, he pledged.

The organization is now assessing applications for dialogue partner status from five more nations, Rashid Olimov, General Secretary of the SCO, told Russian news agency ITAR-TASS in an interview.

The SCO currently has six member states -China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, with Belarus,Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers, and Turkey, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal as dialogue partners.