"Shanghai Cooperation Organization: from Central Asia to Eurasia"
17 June 2022
Remarks by Amb Vinod Kumar, Leader of ICWA/Indian Delegation
First Session: Policy and Security Issues
Janob Anvar Nasirov, Director of the International Institute for Central Asia;
Janob Timur Rakhimov, moderator of the session;
Excellencies, distinguished participants,
I bring greetings to the Institute and all participants from the Indian Council of World Affairs, and thank the Institute and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan for inviting the Council to the Conference.
The organization of the Conference on ‘Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: From Central Asia to Eurasia’ by the International Institute of Central Asia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan commemorating the 20th anniversary of the SCO Charter, is both topical and timely. In just two decades, SCO has emerged as a collaborative and effective regional organization. It plays a constructive role in securing peace and sustainable development, advancing regional cooperation and consolidating good-neighbourliness and mutual trust.
The SCO Charter provides for the main goals and tasks of SCO which includes : to strengthen mutual trust, friendship and good-neighbourliness; to consolidate multidisciplinary cooperation in the maintenance and strengthening of peace, security and stability in the region and promotion of a new democratic, fair and rational political and economic international order; to jointly counteract terrorism, separatism and extremism in all their manifestations, to fight against illicit narcotics and arms trafficking and other types of criminal activity of a transnational character, and also illegal migration. Under the Chairmanship of Uzbekistan, the Comprehensive Plan for the implementation of the SCO Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation is under discussion, and we look forward to its finalisation and implementation.
When we are talking of future directions of SCO, we also need to look at the challenges in our region. As Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi underlined at the last SCO Summit, biggest challenges in this area are related to peace, security, and trust deficit. He had highlighted the problems caused by growing radicalisation and extremism in the broader SCO region, which runs counter to the history of the region as a bastion of moderate and progressive cultures and values.; and suggested that SCO could work on an agenda to promote moderation and scientific and rational thought, which would be especially relevant for the youth of the region.
India has actively participated in meetings and activities of the SCO since becoming a member of the organisation and remains committed to fruitful collaboration within the SCO. At the academic level, the Indian Council of World Affairs has been engaged in the SCO Forum, and has an SCO Study Centre within ICWA. During India’s forthcoming tenure as SCO Chair, ICWA would organise events and we look forward to participation of SCO partner institutions in the events.
The member countries of SCO have historical and civilisational connections among their peoples. While working on expanding our economic engagement and connectivity, we should not lose sight of our historical and cultural connections. Academic exchanges and institutional linkages should be used not only for academic interaction, but also as instruments to strengthen our people – to – people contacts. We may perhaps look at the possibility of collaboration for young scholars at the SCO Forum partner institutions from SCO member countries.
The forthcoming accession of Iran to SCO is a welcome development. It would add value to the political, strategic, and economic discussions in SCO as well as in its larger goal of peace and security in the region. It will also provide opportunities to deliberate on regional connectivity through Iran.
Central Asia is at the core of SCO. Historically, Central Asia has not only been a melting pot of civilisations, but also the region connecting the nations and peoples of Asia and Europe. We are now witnessing the resurgence of Central Asia’s importance in political, strategic, and economic discourse in the region.
India’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy is based on political, economic and people -to- people engagement with Central Asian countries, both individually and collectively. In the past few years there has been enhanced engagement between India and Central Asia in all areas. The first ever Summit between India and Central Asia in January this year gave further impetus to the efforts to strengthen our relations and expand cooperation to new areas. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi emphasized in his statement that Central Asia is central to India’s vision of an integrated and stable extended neighbourhood. The Leaders of India and Central Asia looked forward to building a long term, comprehensive, and enduring India-Central Asia partnership based on mutual trust, understanding and friendship.
The India – Central Asia Dialogue at the level of Foreign Ministers has been a practical and useful mechanism to expand and strengthen our relationship. India and Central Asia have enhanced relations in strategic areas including defence, security, counter terrorism, and intelligence sharing.
During the Covid – 19 pandemic that posed a major challenge to national and global healthcare systems, India and Central Asian countries provided medicines and medical supplies to one another in times of need.
Considering the success of the SCO in becoming a leading regional organisation in a short span of time, the organisation can be rightly expected to transform to a Eurasian structure with Central Asia as the cohesive core.
I thank the International Institute of Central Asia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan for organising this Conference, and for the kind hospitality.