Ambassador Grigory Logvinov, Deputy Secretary General, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Beijing,
Ambassador Dammu Ravi, Secretary [Economic Relations], Ministry of External Affairs of India,
Excellencies & Distinguished participants,
A very warm welcome to the ‘International Conference on Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Reconnect ~ Rejuvenate’ hosted by India’s oldest foreign policy think tank, the Indian Council of World Affairs which also is the lead think tank in India for SCO.
2. Since joining SCO in 2017, India is for the first time, the Chair of the SCO Council of Heads of State; and ICWA has the privilege to host this unique conference in the year of India’s Chairmanship. I am particularly grateful to Ambassador Grigory Logvinov for accepting our invitation to address the Conference.
3. Today SCO’s geographical expanse extends from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean and from the Pacific to the Black Sea. The strength of SCO lies in the fact one, that it has organically evolved from within the region and secondly, because it pursues policies by building consensus among members, who all have an equal stake in its decisions. India remains committed to strengthening the mandate of SCO.
4. India approaches it’s SCO Chairmanship under the vision enunciated by PM Modi of SECURE which he articulated at the Qingdao Summit of SCO in 2018. SECURE connotes Security, Economic Cooperation, Connectivity, Unity, Respect for Sovereignty and Environment. Within this framework, India has also strived to expand the pillars of cooperation in the field of Science & Technology, Startups & Innovation and Traditional Medicine.
5. I would like to emphasise that unlike ever before, India has invited the Dialogue partners and Observers of SCO to over 15 socio-cultural events and technical seminars. This has been part of India’s effort to create a platform in SCO to engage with Observers and Dialogue Partners in a more meaningful and substantive manner. Extending the spirit of cooperation and partnership to the Observers and Dialogue Partners, beyond the limited opportunity to merely participate at Summits, will be useful for the work of the organisation. This will help us to carry forward the idea of “Samarkand Spirit” as outlined by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during the SCO Summit in 2022 i.e, the world is to be perceived as one. This is akin to the Indian ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – the world is a family. SCO, therefore, should be the platform for collaboration and cooperation in the Eurasian space.
6. The theme of the Conference ‘Reconnect ~ Rejuvenate’, is to put forth the view that the region needs to be more connected and have several strands of interactions. Robust connectivity within and between Central and South Asia has roots in history and it is time to reinvigorate linkages, including civilizational, to further the common aspirations of the region. SCO needs to be an enabler in connecting the nodes and synergise the common objectives. In keeping with the centrality of Central Asia, India along with other partner countries has been making efforts to improve Central Asia’s connectivity with South Asia, Caucasus, Eurasia and further north, especially through the multilateral initiatives like the International North South Transport Corridor. India has also taken practical steps to operationalize the Chabahar port in Iran. With Iran joining the SCO as a Member State, Chabahar can provide a secure, viable and unhindered access to the sea for Central Asian countries. This enhanced connectivity will in turn rejuvenate the development of the region and of SCO, at a time when countries are recovering from post-pandemic consequences and are facing challenges arising from ongoing geopolitical developments.
7. SCO region is faced with multiple challenges. Instability in Afghanistan, which shares borders with SCO, has been a common concern for us. The responsibility is on us in the region to help make it a stable, peaceful country integrated with regional economic systems. It is equally important that Afghanistan forms a truly inclusive and representative government, with due respect to rights of all Afghan ethnicities, regions and gender. India has been providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
8. Terrorism, transnational crimes, and cyber threats have been a cause of concern and hampering closer cooperation in promoting regional development and building a cooperative regional environment. A concerted effort is required to decisively deal with these challenges.
9. Our conference today and tomorrow, with four working sessions, will discuss the nuances of issues which concern us. The first session “Reconnect and Lead: SCO’s Role in Enhanced Integration” will examine the SCO’s current and future role in wider framework of global and inter-regional developments, and in multilateralism. The next session titled “Reconnect for Stability: Ensuring Secure Re-emergence of Eurasia” will discuss ways to secure an all-encompassing security for our shared space. Thereafter, connectivity issues, which are growing in salience, will be discussed in the session “Reconnect, Synchronise, Grow: Quest for Enhanced Connectivity”. The final session “Reconnecting the People: Invigorating Hearts & Minds” puts people at the centre and will discuss how to enhance cultural connect and increase interaction among youth, women, entrepreneurs, experts and media in our shared space.
We hope that the deliberations of this conference will contribute to the growth of SCO.