India displays its commitment to fostering stronger bonds among member states

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit will be hosted virtually by India under its Presidency on (Tuesday) July 4, 2023, marking an important milestone.

The Summit will be attended by leaders from the 8 member states - China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. It will be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The SCO is an intergovernmental organization founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001. The SCO's objectives are to improve ties among members, advance cooperation in political affairs, economic commerce, scientific-technical, cultural, and educational domains, as well as in energy and the environment, protect regional peace, security, and stability, and develop a democratic, equitable international political and economic order.

Besides the eight Member States, SCO also has four Observer States including Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia, and six 'Dialogue Partners' include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.

FROM OBSERVER TO SCO PRESIDENCY

India's association with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) began in 2005 as an Observer country. India became a full Member State of SCO at the Astana Summit in 2017, which was a historic moment in India's engagement with the Organisation. In the past six years, India has played an active and constructive role in all spheres of activities of SCO.

On September 2022, India took over the presidency of SCO from Uzbekistan at the Samarkand Summit of SCO. The theme of India's chairship of SCO is "SECURE," derived from the acronym given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 2018 SCO Qingdao Summit. It stands for Security, Economic development, Connectivity, Unity, Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and Environmental protection.

During India's presidency, SCO has touched new milestones in the range, depth, and intensity of engagements and interactions across a wide range of sectors. India created five new pillars and focus areas of cooperation in SCO, including startups and innovation, traditional medicine, digital inclusion, youth empowerment, and shared Buddhist heritage.

Two new mechanisms in SCO, Special Working Group on Startups and Innovation and Experts Working Group on Traditional Medicine were created on India’s initiative, we intend to contribute substantially in both these areas.

As Chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), India placed significant emphasis on fostering stronger people-to-people connections among member states. To achieve this objective, a series of signature events were organized under the Indian Chairmanship.

Events like SCO Film Festival, SCO Millet Food Festival, SCO Cultural showcase at Suraj Kund Mela, SCO Tourism Mart, Conference on Shared Buddhist Heritage, B2B Conference on Traditional Medicine, and SCO International Conference of Think Tanks aimed to deepen the existing bonds and promote cultural exchange and collaboration.

VIBRANT EXCHANGE OF IDEAS & PRACTICES

Under the Indian Chairship, an unprecedented level of engagement was witnessed between the SCO Observers and Dialogue Partners. These external participants actively took part in 14 socio-cultural events, which served as platforms for interaction and mutual understanding.

The Indian Chairmanship orchestrated a diverse range of activities to facilitate these very people-to-people connections. These events encompassed various aspects of society, including art, music, dance, literature, sports, and academic exchange. By incorporating such a wide array of activities, the Indian Chair sought to engage individuals from different walks of life, fostering cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation.

These events not only provided an opportunity for member states to showcase their cultural heritage but also encouraged a deeper appreciation of each other's traditions and customs. By promoting cultural exchange, the Indian Chair aimed to create an atmosphere of inclusivity and harmony within the SCO.

The participation of SCO Observers and Dialogue Partners in these events further contributed to the enrichment of the cultural experience. These external participants brought their unique perspectives and traditions, facilitating a diverse and vibrant exchange of ideas and practices.

STRENGTHENING PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE TIES

The SCO's socio-cultural events under the Indian Chairmanship not only promoted mutual understanding but also strengthened people-to-people ties. By encouraging interaction at various levels, the Indian Chair sought to bridge gaps and build lasting relationships among member states and external participants.

India celebrated Kashi/Varanasi as the 1st SCO Tourist and Cultural Capital of SCO 2022-23, drawing focus on India's millennia-old cultural and civilizational heritage.

Youth Empowerment was another focus area of Indian chair, and events like Young Authors Conference, Young Scientist Conclave, Startup Forum, SCO Youth Council and Conference, SCO Resident Researchers Programme were organized.

SCO FOREIGN MINISTER'S MEETING SETS THE TONE

As part of its presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), India also organized a significant event in Goa, hosting the Foreign Ministers of the SCO member states on 4-5 May. The meeting was not only marked by substantive discussions but also showcased a vibrant cultural program.

The Foreign Ministers' gathering in Goa provided an important platform for dialogue and deliberation on various regional and global issues. The discussions held during this meeting allowed the participating nations to exchange views, share perspectives, and strengthen cooperation on matters of mutual interest. These deliberations played a crucial role in shaping the SCO's agenda during India's presidency.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar inaugurated the New Delhi Hall virtually at the SCO Secretariat in Beijing. This symbolized India's commitment to the SCO and its active engagement with the organization. The establishment of the New Delhi Hall further strengthened India's presence within the SCO framework, providing a dedicated space for future meetings and interactions.

As a testament to the significance of India's presidency within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a special commemorative stamp was issued to mark this historic occasion. This stamp holds immense symbolic value, representing India's prominent role and contributions to the organization during its first-ever presidency.

To sum up, India attaches special importance to the SCO in promoting multilateral, political, security, economic, and humanistic interrelations in the region. The ongoing engagement with SCO has helped India promote its relations with the countries in the region with which India has shared civilizational linkages, and is considered India's extended neighborhood

India's SCO presidency gives the country the chance to start global and regional counterterrorism measures as well as regional efforts to combat the illicit drug trade. India has made serious efforts to promote peace, prosperity, and stability throughout the whole Eurasian area, in general, and amongst the SCO members, in particular, since it gained full membership.