India and Pakistan, the newest prospective members of a growing economic club formed by Russia and China in the Eurasian region, have hailed the emergence of an economic axis not centered around the West.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Russian city of Ufa that the expanded group, which with the addition of India and Pakistan would represent half the world's population, will serve as a "springboard" to make Eurasia's economy one of the most dynamic in the world.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that Russian President Vladimir Putin's "efforts will enhance the political and economic scope of the Eurasian belt."
Modi used the occasion of the summit to schedule a state visit to Pakistan next year, in a sign the two nuclear-armed rivals may see the economic group as a rare forum for mutual cooperation and an easing of tensions.
"We have everything we need to succeed," Modi said. "The time has come to reach out across the region."
Putin showed his pleasure at attracting some of the world's biggest emerging economies, and said that the new entrants would enhance the economic clout and reach of the organization.
"These are powerful nations with strategic prospects, the future leaders of the world and the global economy," he said.
"We will actively develop our relations with those who want to work with us," he said, in a pointed reference to the unwillingness of the West to do new business with Russia after imposing sanctions last year when Russia seized Crimea and backed a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
"It has become clear that economics are being used as a political weapon.... But we should not close ourselves off with some kind of wall," he said. "We will use all the tools of collaboration with all countries -- the United States, Europe, and Asia."
Putin used the Shanghai summit and a previous one involving the world's largest emerging economies to show that Russia is not isolated in the global economy, despite bickering with the West over Ukraine.
Analysts said India and Pakistan likely wanted to join the Eurasian group to develop relations with major energy producers like Russia and Kazakhstan.
The group also includes other Central Asian former Soviet republics Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
"Membership could better position India to benefit from Central Asia's gas riches," said Michael Kugelman, an associate at the Wilson Center in Washington.
But while the addition of India and Pakistan beefs up the group's economic gravitas, "India and Pakistan wouldn't be dominant powers" within the organization, he said. "China and Russia would retain that title."
The Shanghai group did not invite Iran to join, although it has long sought membership. The group says Iran can join only after reaching a deal with big powers on its nuclear program.
With the addition of Iran, the group would control around one-fifth of the world's oil and represent nearly half of the global population. The BRICS account for one-fifth of the world's economic output and 40 percent of its population.
With reporting by Reuters and dpa