Good afternoon, dear ladies and gentlemen, dear both Mr. Raghavans. Yes, I thank the Indian Council of World Affairs for inviting me to this interactive session. I'm very glad that I can visit second time your institute, your Council. I was here two years before, and we signed an MoU, and we discussed about cooperation and organizing common research, about important regional and international issues. At that time, I could not think that I will be Secretary General, when we began our cooperation. But what I can say, we know that the ICWA is a leading think tank in India which studies major regional and international issues and makes prospects for the development of their foreign policy.
2. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization attaches great importance to information and analytical work and seeks to expand the expert dialogue between the research centres of the SCO Member States, ASEAN and European Union. We have such an institution or platform for our think tanks, it is the Forum of SCO. Last year, it was organized in April and Dr. T.C.A. Raghavan participated in this.
3. Since its establishment in 2001, the SCO has successfully integrated itself into the system of international relations in a very short period by historical standards and has consistently strengthened its authority in the world. Today, the organization includes 8 countries, India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, 4 Observer states, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia as well as 6 Dialogue Partners, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka. In addition, about 10 countries, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Israel, Maldives, Ukraine, Iraq, Vietnam, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, that have applied for Observer or Dialogue Partner status, and it's showing that almost three dozen countries of Eurasia are already in SCO orbit.
4. With the accession of India to SCO, the organization has acquired a global profile, opened up completely new opportunities for further development and deepening of full scale cooperation. The role of SCO as an important mechanism for shaping regional and global policies, ensuring security and sustainable development, has increased.
5. Almost half, as it was said, half of the world's population lives in the SCO region. And SCO covers 60% of the territory of Eurasia, most of the people of which are economically active in this region and are engaged in production of goods and services. In the territory of SCO, there are advanced production clusters, including hi-tech and knowledge intensive type, there are all kinds of minerals for the organization of production cycle of high complexity as well as increasing the value chains.
6. The total GDP of the SCO-Member States is about USD20 trillion or 1/5 of the world's GDP. By some expert prediction in 2030, this GDP will be 35%-40% of the world's GDP. And as in beginning last year, World Economic Forum published some analysis. In 2030s, 10 leading economies of the world will be USD180 trillion and three countries, leading countries of SCO, Russia, India, China's GDP will be 60% of all these leading economies. So, total foreign trade turnover exceeds $6 trillion or about 15% of the world's foreign trade. The average GDP growth in the SCO space is about 4%.
7. Today, the SCO region is home to more than 800 million young people, aged 15 to 24, who are most exposed to risk and threat in the information space. Therefore, it is important for the SCO to work towards directing high potential of young people in the right direction, developing intellectual skills, abilities as well as youth entrepreneurship in the field of digital and electronic innovation. In the Qingdao Summit in 2018, leaders adopted appeal and programme of action for implementation. This appeal was to the youth to not participate in activities of terrorist, extremist and separatist organizations.
8. The SCO also focuses on humanitarian ties. Member States are working fruitfully in the field of education, health, culture, tourism and youth contacts. We intend to seek to expand the number of participants in the successfully functioning SCO Network University, the Agreement on the establishment of which has been signed by Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. We hope that India can join this too. The Russian part of the SCO Youth Council has big plans in this area.
9. In order to create a common tourist space, the SCO Secretariat initiated the Eight Wonders of the SCO Project, which includes one miracle from each Member State. In Beijing, St. Petersburg, in Samarqand, Dushanbe, Xi'an and Helsinki, we have organized presentations. We express our gratitude to Indian side for the support of this event and the inclusion of the miracle from India, The Statue of Unity.
10. We highly appreciate the efforts of the Indian side to further deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with SCO at the SCO Summit in Qingdao in 2018. The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Modi noted that for several thousands of years, the geographical region represented by SCO countries has been a source of inspiration, scientific and philosophical progress throughout the world. Buddha, Confucius, this is just one example, Samarqand, Bukhara are also examples of our common heritage, Mahatma Gandhi and other names.
11. There are countless examples of great people who have inspired humanity around the world. This is our common heritage that is felt all over the world. Because thousands of years ago, our ancestors travelled geographical distances through bridges of cooperation, and today we are again at the stage when physical and digital interconnectedness are changing the very definition of geography. [This is what] Mr. Modi [outlined] in his statement.
12. At the SCO Summit in 2018, in Qingdao and in Bishkek last year, in which India participated as Full Member, Prime Minister Mr. Modi put forward a number of important proposals aimed at further deepening cooperation in the field of regional security, strengthening economic cooperation, agriculture, medicine, IT, space, finance, development of alternative energy sources and environmental protection.
13. India's commitment to dealing with climate change lies in its philosophy, which considers the Earth as our mother, emphasized Mr. Modi in the summit in Qingdao. In this context, I would like to mention the Action Plan for implementing the concept of cooperation between the SCO Member States in the field of environmental protection for period 2019-2021 adopted by Heads of States, which has created a solid legal basis for cooperation between India and SCO Member States.
14. This year, for the first time, India is chairing one of the main SCO events, the Council of Heads of Government, Prime Ministers of the Organization’s Member States in second half of this year in autumn. The Member States have highly appreciated India's willingness to host the meeting of Prime Ministers. The event will be preceded by a number of meetings in India, including the meeting of the SCO Ministers of economic activities, meetings of the SCO Commission of Senior Officials on foreign trade activities, the Council of National Coordinators, financial and personal experts as well at the first meeting of the SCO Consortium of Economic Think Tanks. It is important that first such meeting of SCO Consortium will be in India. India has huge potential, economic potential and we can see that three countries, China, India and Russia should be the locomotive for developing SCO mostly in the fields of economic, multilateral economic cooperation.
15. We have, as I mentioned, $6 trillion [and] more, this trade turnover of all Member States, but trade between our States is only $305 billion or 5%. For example, in ASEAN, it is 27%. And in the European Union, it is more than 50%. So we think that this Consortium will play an important role to find solutions for many barriers, which impede the strengthening of cooperation between us and to use this big area for the benefit of our people and for the prosperity of our countries, mostly Central Asian countries, double landlocked countries. For them, it is important to use this potential.
16. The Consortium will establish cooperation between research centres on economic issues and conduct analyses on priority areas. We attach importance to these events, and in this regard, I would like to express the readiness of the SCO Secretariat to actively participate in their preparation and conduct.
17. In the morning, we had a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jaishankar, and Minister of Commerce, Mr. Goyal, and both of them supported these ideas. I'm very glad that it has become a good tradition to hold business forums in conjunction with SCO Heads of Government meetings to establish direct contact between representatives of the business community. Both the Ministers supported this idea.
18. And we will make from our side, from Secretariat’s side, all efforts to make these meetings very successful. I would like to note that active participation of the Indian side in the SCO mechanisms in the security sphere, including within the framework of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of the SCO through the Secretaries of the Security Councils, Ministers of Defence, Interior, Justice, Prosecutor Generals, judicial authorities and etc. play an important role.
19. Today, we attached great importance to the participation of the Indian side in anti-terrorist military exercises. The distinctive feature of our organization is the universal nature of cooperation, which covers the fields of politics, security, economy and humanitarian relations. The SCO Development Strategy of 2025 has set new guidelines for the Organization, taking into account the focus of global and regional development and confirming the provision of security and stability in the region as a main priority in its activity. As you know, as Ambassador P.S. Raghavan rightly said, Uzbekistan joined SCO in 2001; these 5 countries’ unity. And after this June 15th, 2001, this organization, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, played an important role, because in this time, the Taliban, on border of Uzbekistan in Hairatan in which they after occupying Hairatan they killed Iranian diplomats, I remember. And the Al Qaeda was there. So, there was some prediction there that they can go forward. It was time in ’97, I remember, I was State Advisor to the First President and there was a meeting with Mr. Solana. He was Secretary General of NATO at that time and President Karimov asked, if Taliban will come to us, go through border, can you come, defend us? There were no answers, so that’s why SCO played an important role.
20. SCO and Anti-Terrorist Structure in Tashkent, which was established in 2004, is a platform, a good mechanism where now the Indian representative is working for creating trust between our Member States, between our law enforcement agencies and security agencies. And in the field of security, the SCO has a number of impressive developments. There are Conventions and Agreements on combating terrorism, drug trafficking, crime, as well as ensuring international information security in the context of the interdependence of the modern world. No country is able to cope these challenges alone, on the contrary, to overcome them requires a formation and improvement of effective, collective approaches at the global and regional levels.
21. In 2018, the competent authorities of the SCO Member States identified and suppressed 10 channels of financing of terrorism and more than 10,000 foreigners suspected of involvement in terrorist activities were blocked from entering the SCO Member States. At the same time, joint anti-terrorist exercises ‘Peace Mission’ are regularly held.
22. We are making efforts to develop common approaches against the use of the internet for terrorists and extremists purposes, based on the equal participation of all States in the development of rules and standards for its operation. In 2018, [the Organization] limited access to 165,000 internet resources containing materials of terrorist and extremist nature, including more than 3,000 accounts of users of social network.
23. An important contribution in this direction is the SCO Convention on Countering Extremism signed in 2017, which reflects common multilateral approaches to combating the spread of extremist ideology in society. The document is universal and open to accession by any interested state.
24. I have to say that the main source of the terrorist threat in the SCO space remains the territory of Afghanistan. The current situation in the Afghan border area is of increasing concern and carries potential risk in terms of spill-over effect of instability and the shift of terrorist activity to the neighbouring States of Central Asia and South Asia.
25. In particular, evidence of this is a recent attack by ISIS militants on the frontier Ishkobod in Tajikistan. So, what we’re now witnessing is that these forces are competing with the Taliban, to retake control over drug trafficking, for financing the illegal activity, to restrict activity from one side. From another side, they are interested in using this traffic, illegal traffic or drug traffic, these routes for transporting terrorists to the Central Asian countries, to Russia and to South Asian countries.
26. The involvement of Afghanistan in the production and smuggling of narcotic drugs, which according to various estimates, accounts for upto 65% of the income of local armed groups is also of serious concern to the SCO Member States and, over the last five years, SCO Member States seized more than 40% of all drugs, which was seized in the Eurasian continent. The deteriorating situation in that country requires us to take adequate preventive measures to maintain stability throughout the region. Taking into account the continuing threats of terrorists, drug trafficking and cross border organized crime, we are talking about a comprehensive solution to the Afghan problem. The SCO seeks to promote a political settlement in Afghanistan, including by helping the economic recovery of this country.
27. It is for the first time in the history of Afghanistan that in September, 41 wagons, the train had 41 wagons, goods from Afghanistan were transported from Hairatan through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to China. So, we’re looking forward to this, the Afghanistan economy should be revived by support of all Member States. And what is important is to support Afghanistan to have the alternative for drugs, because if we will not find solution for drug-production in this country, it will be difficult to obtain peace and stability in this country.
28. In the Bishkek Summit, as it was said, we signed, adopted the roadmap for this Contact Group of SCO on Afghanistan. And we are very glad that India is participating, actively participating in the activity of this Contact Group for the implementation [of] this roadmap. The SCO is ready to continue to serve as a reliable framework for a unified and indivisible Eurasian security architecture, effectively complementing global efforts to counter the ideological and logistic fuelling of terrorism and its fusion with transnational organized crime. We’re open to constructive dialogue and cooperation with all interested States, international and regional institutions in building a shared, secure and prosperous future.
29. I want to emphasize that the SCO was originally created as an organization of interaction in security sphere. But gradually, there was a common understanding to actively develop and support the work in the area of trade and economic ties. I informed Mr. Raghavan about this. During 18 years, 1,400 documents were adopted within the framework of our Organization, 46% of them dedicated to security, only 7% to economic and humanitarian cooperation. And the relevance of this goal is all the more obvious when SCO Members, first of all Russia, China as well as Iran, which is an Observer State, finds themselves under the impact of unilateral protectionist measures and economic sanctions and the consequences of the restrictions and the related impact on other partners in our Organization.
30. Hence there is a strong consensus in favour of promoting international cooperation to preserve the leading role of the WTO and the rules-based mutually trading system. In the statement of Prime Minister, Mr. Modi at the Bishkek Summit, it was specially mentioned that one sidedness and protectionism have not done any good for anyone. We need, he said, a rules based transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive, multilateral trading system focused on the World Trade Organization. This will protect the interest of all the Members and especially the developing countries.
31. New prospects for trade and economic cooperation are opening up with a formation of the [International] North-South Transport Corridor with a length of more than 7,000 kilometres, as well as with accession of India to the Ashgabat Agreement on the formation of a new international transport and transit route.
32. The Corridor would also be the shortest multimodal transportation route, linking the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf via Iran to Russia and north Europe. The estimated capacity of the corridor is 20 to 30 million tons of goods per year and will reduce time and cost by 30%, 40%. This project of transit transportation of goods through the infrastructure of railways, roads, seaports will create condition for sustainable economic development of the participating countries. This giant transport corridor will link St. Petersburg with the Indian port of Mumbai.
33. Moving in the same direction, in November last year, the Council of Heads of Government of the SCO Member States in Tashkent approved a new version of the programme of multilateral trade and economic cooperation of the SCO Member States until 2035, which provides for the implementation of task for the balanced development of effective transport infrastructure and the expansion of the use of digital technologies and intellectual system in transport. It also adopted one of the most important documents in the field of railway cooperation; first such document in 18 years which gives the concept of interaction between the railway administrations of SCO Member States, which provides the legal basis for the development of cooperation in the field of rail transport. Our Member States added 244,000 kilometres of railways, but what is impressive that a 104,000 kilometres is Indian railways. It is biggest in the world, this railway connection, connectivity. But what is important to mention is that, from 2010, [there has been] a 40 times rise in transporting containers from Asia to Europe and back, but by railroad only 1.3% of goods are transported; 90% are transported by ships.
34. But here are several barriers, for which we should find solutions. Because transport, railroad play an important role today for developing trade and economic cooperation in the vast Eurasian continent. But if we take into consideration the developing e-commerce, we would like to have our goods, which we ordered through internet, and not if tomorrow, but day after tomorrow at our doors. That’s why railroad is playing an important role and its importance will rise.
35. In the context of increasing the transit potential of SCO countries, a China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway project may become one of the promising additional routes connecting East Asia with the Middle East, Turkey and Europe as well as an important link in the transport network within the framework of East-West and North-South project providing access to international seaports, including Indian Ocean [ports].
36. There is an interesting idea of forming a large Eurasian partnership, a broad integration structure. It is a Russian initiative, broad integration structure that should develop on the basis of network of regional associations and transcontinental projects. The transport and infrastructure projects currently being implemented within the framework of the SCO are largely aimed at solving the fundamental task of providing favourable opportunities for States that do not have access to the sea, that mainly is Central Asian countries, which are landlocked. Last month [UN Secretary-General] Mr. [Antonio] Guterres made a statement, where he outlined the importance of the world community to support countries which do not have direct access to the sea. Uzbekistan, Liechtenstein are two double landlocked countries. And, as rightly mentioned by Mr. Guterres, in the price of goods exported by these countries, the transport component forms 60%-70%.
37. So in this way we create new blood artery that will give life, give power to the Eurasian organization. We follow with a great interest, the formation of the open approaches of India and the ASEAN states to the Indo-Pacific concept, while paying attention to a creative, inclusive, and non-confrontational nature, which means a multidisciplinary cooperation, connectivity and sustainable development, respect for international law and openness to all who want to work on the basis of these principles.
38. It seemed to us that the axis of cooperation between Chennai and Vladivostok fits perfectly into the development plans of the Russian Far East and the South East and South Asia. Such goal setting is fully consistent with the key principles of the concept of the great Eurasian partnership, which is proposed by Russia in which such mechanism as the SCO and ASEAN can take a further place, which being important platforms for cooperation and, thanks to the established partnership, act productively in the fields of politics, security and economy. Only through our joint efforts will we be able to unite the vast sea and land space on the vast Eurasian continent to unite the surrounding continents and regions around Eurasia.
39. And overall, we believe that the diverse practical activities of the SCO leads to the formation of a larger Eurasian partnership, wide integration circuit, which should be developed on the basis of a new network of regional associations, SCO, Eurasian Economic Commission, ASEAN and transcontinental projects, considering principles of transparency and respect for interests of the participants.
40. I would like to mention this Chinese idea of creating a community of common destiny, which covers the Eurasian continent, and the implementation of these ideas certainly play an important role [in] this regional organization. No doubt their implementation would strengthen economic cooperation in the continent, develop common transport and energy infrastructure and stimulate technological progress.
41. So, in the discourse of European experts, Western experts, in relation to the growing economy of China and India, it is said that world economic development trends are moving from the West to the East. Yes, it was thus very cautiously, it was previously assessed, but openly said is by [French President Emmanuel] Macron. He said now it is clear that the world economy is moving from West to the East. Yes, it is, historically, as Mr. Modi said in his statement at Qingdao. He said that the SCO region over a thousand years, which now stands united, played an important role in economic development.
42. Now, the world community is benefiting from the first technical information revolution where they’re introducing Artificial Intelligence based on 5G, speedy communication networks, and Internet of Things and nanotechnology and so on.
43. Our life will be different, business will be different and certainly the countries which will be not ready to implement these advantages will stay behind. But, [the foundation of] these innovations is in our countries, a thousand years before algorithm. I worked more than 10 years in Europe as Ambassador, I educated our colleagues and our friends that algorithm is not a Latin word, it is the name of al-Khwarizmi, algorismus, algorithmus, founder of algebra in 11th century - in 10 or 11 century, he used Indian achievements, Indian accounting, zero, beginning from zero and now combination 0101 it is [the foundation of] all software and achievements. And that's why we are very glad that other countries like China, India and Russia are achieving big success in digitalization and e-commerce. China, certainly one of the leading countr[ies] in the world and SCO the same for e-commerce. 35% of trade turnover of these countries [is] through e-commerce.
44. What is important, it is not only doing good business, but at the same time, labour forces and the 55% who [are] engaged in e-commerce in China are women, we are talking more about gender equality, women empowerment, but here is the strong ground. In India, as I read yesterday, it was 20% of women in this business and what is important that e-commerce is developing in China rapidly - in India it’s the same, very rapidly. Today 9,000 e-commerce companies and next year it will be 11,500 and the trade turnover will be USD250 billion, but the same time, I am sure that it will rise.
45. I was recently in Fairmont and my daughter is living there in San Francisco, it is Silicon Valley. And I witnessed only Indians [in the surrounding area], in the Indian restaurant, Indian cinema theatre, everything. So I questioned myself, why these people are not doing good business in their own country? We should create such conditions. That's why I met Alibaba, former President, now he retired, Mr. Jack Ma. And we talked about their training, 1 million young students in ASEAN states. I said okay, we have 800 million, why cannot you train them to help our countries and the last week we had - and our Secretary had meeting with the President of this the giant e-commerce company, Mr. Brian. We talked about developing some programme for implementation by them for developing an ecosystem of e-commerce in our country. This was a big opportunity, that's why I think, we see far reaching meaning in deepening interaction between the SCO family [of] States, the European Union and ASEAN.
46. In the current volatile global situation, experts and scientists must fully carry out their roles, that's why I'm seeking, to work with you. I would like to continue to work with you to have more ideas from you, what SCO should do. In April this year, we will have the next Forum of SCO in Kyrgyz Republic. Yes, we will send you the agenda we prepared, our Secretariat, we sent to Kyrgyz, to think tanks of Kyrgyz, who are responsible. And we will be glad if we can transform this forum of think tanks, forums of our Organization into an institution, which can play an important role in developing, and to use, the potential of our countries and to find solutions to all contradictions, to all barriers. And because if we're looking - China is growing as India, but as Mr. Xi Jinping outlined it, 2 years earlier, China will import about $30 trillion (goods) after 15 years. All member states have common body with China, [except] Uzbekistan. But China imported last year $2 trillion, but imported from (SCO) Member States only $100 billion (worth of goods). So, we should look at this. India by joining the SCO can raise its trade turnover with the SCO Member States by 27%. It was $88 billion, trade turnover in 2017, and 2018 more than $100 billion, but at the same time, India imports $80 billion worth of goods. So India’s trade is disbalanced. So we should see how we can benefit from this Organization. Our ordinary people should benefit from this, everyone living in our countries.
Thank you for your attention.