Asian rivals India and Pakistan on Friday formally joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security bloc spearheaded by China and Russia, despite bilateral tensions bubbling over Kashmir.
Leaders of the largely symbolic body -- including Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping -- formally signed off on the sub-continent duo's accession at the annual SCO summit in Kazakhstan's capital Astana. P
akistani President Nawaz Sharif and Indian counterpart Narendra Modi reportedly shook hands and exchanged greetings late Thursday at the opening of the SCO meeting, although New Delhi said that no formal bilateral meeting between the two was planned. The SCO memberships for Pakistan and India were approved in July 2015.
The two countries have observer status in the group, along with Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia. The regional pact comprises of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
In 2012, Turkey was approved as one of six "dialogue partners" in the organization that was established in 2003 with the aim of promoting cooperation between members and maintaining regional stability.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947, two of them over the disputed Kashmir region. The dispute about Kashmir, one of the oldest on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council along with Palestine, erupted between India and Pakistan in 1947. Since then, more than 94,000 Kashmiris have been killed in clashes.