Dear Dr. Raghavan,
Dear Mr. Vikas Swamp,
Dear participants of the webinar,
I thank the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) for facilitating the organization of this webinar on the theme of India’s interaction and multilateral cooperation as an SCO member state in the framework of our Organization SCO.
Earlier this year I had the privilege of visiting your wonderful country in my capacity as SCO Secretary-General, during which we had a meaningful discussion at the Indian Council of World Affairs, in New Delhi.
We know that ICWA is a leading think tank of India, which focuses on studying major regional and international issues, as well as determining prospects for foreign policy development.
India's accession to the SCO as a full member creates entirely new opportunities for further development and deepening of full-fledged cooperation among member States of SCO.
India's accession to the SCO gave the organization a new quality and dynamics, and increased its ability to withstand modern challenges and threats. The role of SCO as an important mechanism for shaping regional and global policies, ensuring security and sustainable development has been strengthened.
We highly appreciate the efforts of the Indian side to further deepen mutually beneficial cooperation within SCO.
At the recent SCO summits in Qingdao and Bishkek, in which India participated as a full member, India's Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Modi made a number of important proposals aimed at further deepening cooperation in regional security, strengthening trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation, with focus on areas like agriculture, medicine, information technology, space, finance, development of alternative energy sources, tourism and environmental protection.
For the first time in India, on 8 November 2019 the 10th Meeting of Heads of Agencies of the SCO Member States dealing with disaster management was organized.
I would like to note India's active participation in the SCO security mechanisms, including the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure and the implementation of the “SCO anti-drug strategy”. SCO also welcomes India's active participation in anti-terrorist exercises.
This year, for the first time, India is chairing the meeting of SCO's second most important body, the Council of Heads of Government, which is planned to be held in India in November this year.
This body (Council of Heads of Government) is the main mechanism responsible for the development of trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation among the SCO member States.
The meeting of Prime Ministers will be preceded by meetings of Ministers of trade, justice, the Council of National Coordinators and financial experts.
The first meeting of the Consortium of Economic Think Tanks was held in a constructive spirit, on August 20-21 this year in the format of a videoconference at the initiative of the Indian side. The Consortium adopted an action plan for joint research aimed at boosting trade and economic cooperation within the SCO region.
We attach great importance to these joint studies, and in this regard I would like to express the readiness of the SCO Secretariat to take active part in their preparation and conduct.
Today, SCO is a space that brings together almost half of the world's population and a huge consumer market with rich natural resources, advanced production facilities and technologies.
According to preliminary estimates of the International Monetary Fund, the total GDP of the SCO member States in 2019 amounted to 22.4% of the world total or 19.5 trillion dollars.
By 2030, it is expected to grow to 35-40 % of the world GDP. The total foreign trade turnover of the SCO member States with foreign countries (Non SCO Countries) in 2019 exceeded 6.3 trillion U.S. dollars.
However, the trade turnover between the SCO member States does not exceed 5% of total and is about 305 billion US dollars. However, if we look at organization like ASEAN, the mutual trade between the countries of ASEAN is 27%.
As it seems, our trade and economic cooperation does not yet correspond to the level of political interaction in the SCO region.
At the same time, India is among the largest economies in the world, second only to China and the United States in terms of GDP. According to PwC's forecast "The World in 2050", the share of India's economy in world GDP may increase twice by 2050, and it will become the second largest economy in the world after China.
In this regard, in the near future, the SCO space may become one of the centers of global economic development.
New areas of cooperation in the field of transport, such as the International "North-South" transport corridor with the length of more than 7 thousand kilometers, being created on the initiative of India and Russia, as well as India's accession to the Ashgabat agreement on the formation of a new international transport and transit corridor, are intended to contribute to this goal. The estimated capacity of this corridor is about 20 to 30 million tons of cargo per year, which will reduce time delay and costs by 30%-40%.
These projects of cargo transit through the infrastructure of railroads, roads and seaports will create conditions for sustainable economic development of SCO member States.
The transport infrastructure projects currently being implemented within the framework of the SCO are largely aimed at solving the fundamental task of providing favorable opportunities to enter the world market, including through Indian seaports for products from geographically landlocked countries of Central Asia, which are at the core of SCO and peace and stability in the entire SCO space depend on the well-being, economic development and prosperity of this region.
Thus, new transport arteries will be created, which will give vitality to the entire Eurasian region.
India ranks first in Asia and second in the world by the size of its rail network.
By the volume of freight traffic India ranks 5th in the world and the country's leadership is taking a number of important steps to modernize the transport infrastructure.
I am confident that in the years to come we will see practical benefits from the programs implemented by the government and this will open up additional opportunities for trade and economic cooperation with the SCO countries, increasing the volume of mutual trade and promoting joint investment projects.
Moving forward in the same direction, in November 2019 the Council of Heads of Government of the SCO Member States in Tashkent approved a new version of the "Program of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation of the SCO Member States", which provides for the implementation of tasks on balanced development of effective transport infrastructure and expansion of the use of digital technologies and intelligent systems in transport.
In the area of facilitating the development of railway transport, the Concept of Cooperation between the railway administrations (railroads) of the SCO member States was adopted. We sincerely hope that India will intensify its participation in the implementation of these SCO documents.
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
In recent decades, India has made great progress in industrial development and has become an attractive center for foreign investment in the manufacturing sector.
Now India is also on the way to becoming a center of high-tech manufacturing, as many large global companies have either already established or are in the process of establishing their manufacturing facilities.
The “Make in India” initiative is one of the flagship projects of the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aimed at demonstrating India's technological and industrial potential as a global industrial center.
It is believed that India's manufacturing sector could reach $1 trillion by 2025. Despite the fact that such large world economies as India, Russia and China are part of the SCO, the share of domestic trade between the SCO countries, as I have already mentioned, remains small compared to the total volume of their trade with other countries.
We need to promote trade and economic relations within SCO.
The SCO member states are working to create joint industrial clusters and implement multilateral investment projects based on the natural regional advantages and potential of the member states.
The SCO Business Council and the SCO Interbank Association play an important role in this process. We call on India to participate more actively in SCO regional initiatives to expand trade and economic ties.
In this regard, we welcome the initiative of India's National Business Council to hold the SCO Economic Forum in the 4th quarter of this year.
We believe that agreements on simplification of transport and customs procedures, formation of uniform phytosanitary control standards for uninterrupted flow of goods will contribute to the growth of trade and industrial sector of all SCO member-states.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid transition to online mode for significant part of work activities of Secretariat and for also the work of the most important government and educational services showed the effectiveness of IT-technologies.
The practice has shown not only the importance and demand for Internet platforms, but also reflected their success in creating new jobs, forming a fundamentally new level of relations between supplier and consumer on a global scale, leveling geographical and socio-political boundaries.
Undoubtedly the development of international e-commerce is closely linked to the number of Internet users. At present, 1.5 billion Internet users in the world make purchases online, and digital commerce accounts for about 20% of world trade.
By 2025, it is expected to increase to 25%. E-commerce based start-ups in India account for 60 percent of the total number of startups and therefore dominate the industry.
The modern world is on the verge of an unprecedented, or one might say, revolutionary technological changes. The second era of digital revolution, connected with the synergy of artificial intelligence working on super highspeed 5G networks, the development of robotics, bio - and nanotechnology, brings together the digital and real economy.
It seems that the future belongs to those who can effectively use the huge potential of the IT industry in the development of the economy and social sphere of the states.
That is why at the SCO summit in Bishkek the concept of cooperation of the SCO member states in the field of digitalization and information and communication technologies, developed on the initiative of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan was approved.
Given India's huge potential in the ICT industry, we look forward to the country's active participation in the implementation of this Concept in a multilateral format.
Dear participants of the webinar,
The SCO pays close attention to humanitarian ties in order to strengthen the "Shanghai Spirit".
The member States work fruitfully in the fields of health, education, culture, tourism and developing contacts among youth.
In the current context of the coronavirus pandemic, India's health achievements are inspiring and deserve special attention.
India ranks 3rd in the world in terms of drug production and meets 62% of the world's demand for vaccines.
Over the past 50 years, Indian pharmaceutical companies have been successful in meeting both the domestic needs of the country and in gaining a leading position in the global pharmaceutical market.
As for the next steps in cooperation between India and the SCO, especially in the post-COVID-19 era, India could actively participate in the implementation of joint projects to produce pharmaceutical products, application of latest technologies in healthcare system and creation of a telemedicine network in the SCO member States.
It is gratifying to note that during this public health crisis, the SCO member states have demonstrated a high degree of solidarity and cohesion, actively provide comprehensive assistance and support to each other, and constantly exchange experience in combating this evil to humanity.
During the videoconference of the SCO Foreign Ministers on 13 May this year, India's Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar affirmed India's strong commitment to jointly fight the COVID-19 pandemic and its readiness to exchange information, experience and best practices with the SCO member States.
India's contribution to preservation and development of traditional medicine, which is an integral part of India's healthcare system, deserves special attention.
Recently, India has proposed the establishment of a subgroup within the SCO to develop cooperation in traditional medicine within the framework of the SCO Health Ministers Meeting mechanism. The proposal deserves attention and support.
It may be noted that in a number of SCO member States, traditional medicine has been highly effective in treating coronavirus patients.
On 30 July this year, the SCO Forum on Traditional Medicine was held in the format of a videoconference entitled "The unique role of traditional medicine in the joint fight against COVID-19".
At the end of September, at the initiative of the Indian side, the next SCO videoconference would be held on traditional medicine.
We look forward to India's active participation in development of the Programme of Cooperation on traditional medicine of the SCO member States.
Today, more than 800 million young people aged 15 to 24 live in the SCO region.
This fact makes it more important for the SCO to work towards realizing high potential of young people in the right direction, to develop the intellectual and professional skills and abilities of the young generation of our countries.
Currently, with the coronavirus pandemic, most of our countries have fully or partially closed educational institutions, and many students have been transferred to distance learning.
India's higher education system has more than 200 institutions with more than 6 million students from India and around the world.
Today, India ranks third in the world after China and the USA in terms of number of higher education institutions.
At the same time, IT specialists educated in Indian universities are in demand all over the world today.
It may be noted that even before the pandemic, virtual and distance learning in Indian higher education was widespread.
In SCO, within the framework of the first session of the coordination meeting of the SCO University, established at the initiative of the Russian side, which brings together 79 universities in Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, a plan of cooperation was adopted for development of distance education and training of highly qualified specialists in the field of Information and Communication Technology.
We hope that India will too join the SCO University.
As you would be aware, at the SCO Qingdao Summit in 2018, the leaders of our countries adopted a Joint Appeal to Youth and a Programme of Action for its implementation. The programme proposed to create an association of young scientists within the SCO, conduct youth educational, scientific and innovative exhibitions and competitions in member States, exchange scientific publications, conduct research work on topical issues of preventing involvement of young people in the activities of destructive forces and a number of other activities.
The SCO Youth Council plays an active role in implementing these documents.
In this regard, we welcome the decision of the Indian side to join the SCO Youth Council and look forward to India playing an active role in the implementation of the Programme of Action.
A Joint Communique of the Council of SCO Heads of State in Tashkent in November last year supported the initiative of the Chinese side on establishment of International Youth Business Incubators to provide assistance to setting up of start-ups by youth in the SCO region.
India ranks 3rd in the world by the size of the startup-ecosystem. It is expected to show a steady annual growth of 12-15%.
In 2019 alone, 1,300 new technological start-ups were born, which means that 2-3 technological start-ups are born every day.
It is encouraging that young people are primarily involved in these processes.
We also welcome India's initiative to create a special working group on startups and innovations.
At the SCO Summit in Qingdao in 2018, India's Prime Minister, Mr. Modi, noted that "for several thousand years the geographical region represented by the SCO countries has been a source of inspiration for scientific and philosophical progress throughout the world - Buddha, Confucius is just one example; Samarkand, Bukhara are also examples of our common heritage, Mahatma Gandhi and others. There are countless examples of great people who have inspired humanity throughout the world.”
In order to create a single tourist space, the SCO Secretariat has initiated the "8 Wonders of the SCO" project, which includes one wonder from each member State.
We express our gratitude to the Indian side for supporting this initiative and including the Wonder "Statue of Unity" from India.
The "8 Wonders of SCO" exhibition was hosted in Beijing, St Petersburg, Dushanbe, Xi'an and Helsinki.
We look forward to jointly exhibit it in India at the upcoming international tourism exhibitions in the country.Tourism is one of India's main sectors contributing to the country's GDP and driven by sustainable economic growth.
The World Travel and Tourism Council has estimated that the share of tourism in India's GDP in 2018 was US$ 240 billion or 9.2% of India's GDP.
The sector is projected to grow at an annual rate of 6.9% to USD 450 billion (9.9% of GDP) by 2028.
Government of India also plans to develop tourism infrastructure across the country to provide a better tourism experience for tourists.
In this context, I would like to mention the Meeting of Heads of Tourism Administrations of the SCO member States, which took place on 22 May 2020 under the chairmanship of the Russian Federation in videoconference format.
India's active participation in development of the draft Joint Action Plan for the implementation of the Programme of Cooperation of the SCO member States in the Field of Tourism for the period 2021-2022, agreed within the framework of this videoconference will give a new impetus to interaction between the parties, promote mutual understanding and mutual respect between our peoples, deepen cultural and economic ties between the SCO member States.
Dear participants of the webinar,
In general, we believe that the multifaceted practical activities of the SCO member States lead to formation of a larger Eurasian partnership - a broad integration framework that should be developed on the basis of a network of regional associations - the SCO, European Union, Eurasian Economic Union, ASEAN, and transcontinental projects, taking into account principles of transparency and respect for the interests of participants.
Of course, implementation of the activities would help strengthen economic cooperation in the continent, develop common transport and energy infrastructure and stimulate technological progress.
Taking into account India's close cooperation with ASEAN countries, we look forward to the country's active participation in the implementation of the List of Possible Activities between the SCO Secretariat and the ASEAN Secretariat for 2019-2020 in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariat of ASEAN and SCO signed on 21 April 2005.
In this regard, I would like to learn more about the ideas of our Indian colleagues on the agenda of our webinar, as India's presence in the SCO significantly expands our opportunities for cooperation in the Eurasian space.
Thus, today the SCO space - from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean and from the Pacific to the Baltic - is interesting and promising in terms of implementing projects and new ideas, as it is characterized by stability, dynamic development and constantly opening up new opportunities.
I wish the participants of the webinar fruitful work.
Thank you for your attention!