Good afternoon !
Director General of ICWA , Ambassador Raghavan
Secretary General of SCO , His Excellency Vladimir Norov !
Distinguished colleagues, scholars, ladies and gentlemen!
It is my pleasure to join this webinar today on India relations with SCO and I appreciate the efforts of Director General of ICWA Ambassador TCA Raghavan and his team for taking this initiative. This webinar comes at a time when we are expanding and enriching our imprint on the organiation by assuming the Chairmanship of the Council of SCO Heads of Government later this year. Linked to this responsibility and our journey in SCO in the past three years, is a palpable optimism for this vibrant organization and the vast opportunities that it opens up to a resurgent and self- reliant ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT.
2. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has emerged as a key regional organization in the Eurasian space in the past two decades of its existence. Accounting for over 60 per cent of Eurasia’s territory and more than 40 per cent of the world’s population, the Member States of SCO account for almost a quarter of the world’s GDP. The induction of new states, both as permanent and observer members, has not only expanded the frontiers of the organization but also helped broaden its scope and effectiveness. The renewed momentum in building regional synergies is reflected in addressing common security challenges and building long-term economic and energy linkages. While still a work in progress, there inherently appears to be a strong desire among SCO stakeholders to strengthen the bonds of regional cooperation. This is, arguably, best reflected in co-opting Afghanistan as an Observer State and setting up of the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan, with a view to provide support in the process of national reconciliation and socio-economic stability. It was also most recently evident in joining forces to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the COVID- 19 pandemic.
3. India received the Observer status of the organization in 2005 and was accorded the full member status in 2017. More than a decade of engagement with the organization, underscores India’s willingness to play a more meaningful role in this regional grouping. This optimism also stems from India’s desire to deepen its Eurasian partnerships. In this context, SCO provides a springboard for India to reconnect to this extended neighbourhood, with which we are bound by the enduring bonds of centuries of common history. India's cultural heritage is deeply influenced by countries in Eurasia. Indian traders and travelers had traded along the caravan routes for thousands of years and Buddhism had flourished across the vast Eurasian steppe. History is full of close interactions between India and Central Asia, through movement of people, goods and ideas, including spiritual interfaces that enriched us both. The fondness for Indian culture is expressed in Central Asia’s deep interest in Indian cinema, music, and art.
4. Acknowledging the strength of these umbilical bonds, India’s growing economic potential and vast experience and expertise in building institutional capabilities, can add greater value to SCO’s ongoing projects and share best practices in newer areas to forge a common vision for the region. India’s chairmanship of the SCO Council of Heads of Government during 2020 culminating in the Summit in India on 30 November 2020, affords us an opportunity to contribute in a substantive way on the trade and economic agenda of SCO – that will be the main mandate of the Summit in November.
5. During the course of the year, we have broken new ground with respect to three areas in which we have proposed to synergize our collective strengths – Startups and Innovation, Traditional Medicine and Science and Technology. India has offered to host a new SCO Special Working Group on Startups and Innovation, formation of a new Sub Group on cooperation in Traditional Medicine for attainment of SDG3 and hosting the First-ever SCO Conclave for Young Scientists.
6. We are also striving to create a more active and focused intellectual discourse on identifying areas of potential and mutually beneficial cooperation in trade and investment within SCO. The first step in this direction was taken on 20 August 2020 when India successfully hosted the first- ever meeting of the Consortium of Economic Think Tanks of SCO. We are grateful for the full support from all member states to the meeting and now look forward to the finalization of the Delhi Action Plan – as an outcome document to be presented to the leaders at the SCO Heads of Government Meeting in India in November.
7. We are also convinced that open, inclusive and focused B2B interactions will eventually pave the way for developing policies within SCO that are demand- driven and dovetailed to the socio- economic needs of the member states. To implement such a vision, FICCI as the national chapter from India in the SCO Business Council – will host the SCO Business Forum in November that will strive to find a common ground for greater trade and investment in MSMEs, agro-processing, digital economy, pharmaceuticals and green technologies etc. Similarly INVESTINDIA will host the first-ever SCO Startup Forum in October to focus on key areas like Best Practices Workshops, Corporate and Investor Engagement, Procuring social innovations and Knowledge- sharing sessions . The encouraging aspect of such an outlook is that the areas of interest were identified by Member States themselves at the Preparatory Seminar held by INVESTINDIA on 11 August that was attended by more than 60 delegates.
8. India would also like to contribute to a greater understanding of each other’s cultural heritage by fostering greater people–to–people contacts. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic we could not host physical meetings this year. But we are nonetheless, going ahead with holding the digital exhibition on Shared Buddhist Heritage in SCO Member States at the National Museum in Delhi and the translation of classics of Indian regional literature into the SCO languages of Russian and Chinese. Bringing together the youth in SCO is another area we are focusing on. The first step from our side is to join the SCO Youth Council this year with National Service Scheme(NSS) being nominated to lead from India. We are hopeful that with these efforts we will encourage a paradigm shift in our perceptions of each other’s cultural and civilizational heritage and bonds that unite our region.
9. I am pleased to note that today’s webinar has witnessed such high- level participation, including former ambassadors and experts from around the country and is testimony to the potential of the organization as it finds a larger role for itself on the world stage. India fully supports the spirit of consensus and mutual understanding that have been the hallmark of the organization. During the course of our current Chairmanship of the Council of Heads of Government and beyond, we hope to play a constructive role in enriching the agenda of the SCO by placing human beings at the center of our thought and actions to foster greater prosperity and well being of our region.
I thank you for your attention !