As India prepares to host the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in virtual format on Tuesday, it is, perhaps, in order to hark back to how New Delhi’s relationship with the group began.
As an observer country, India joined the SCO in 2005 and became a full member of the group at the Astana Summit in 2017, marking a watershed point in its relationship with the Organisation. In the last six years, India has taken an active and positive role in all SCO operations.
At the SCO Summit in Samarkand in September 2022, India took over the chairmanship of the SCO for the first time from Uzbekistan.
During India’s presidency, the SCO has reached new milestones in the depth and intensity of its engagements and interactions across wide-ranging sectors.
The theme of India’s chairship of SCO- SECURE is derived from the acronym coined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 2018 SCO Qingadao Summit.
It stands for: S : Security; E: Economic development; C: Connectivity; U: Unity; R: Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; E: Environmental protection.
India created five new pillars and focus areas of cooperation in SCO — 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 at India’s initiative.
“On February this year, a virtual conference of experts and practitioners of traditional medicine was organised where experts from 25 countries of SCO participated. As per the vision of Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi ji, the draft terms of reference of Expert Working Group on Traditional Medicine was approved during a meeting of experts held at New Delhi last month,” the official release of Ministry of Ayush stated.
In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also said earlier that India is set to take an initiative for a new SCO working group on traditional medicines.
While addressing the extended format of the 22nd Summit of the Council of Heads of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States (SCO-CoHS) in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand, he said, “In April 2022, WHO inaugurated its Global Centre for Traditional Medicines in Gujarat. This was the first & only global centre by WHO for traditional treatment. India will take an initiative for a new SCO working group on traditional medicines.”
To achieve the Prime Minister Modi’s vision of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakom (World is One Family), India emphasised more people-to-people connections.
A number of landmark events were held under the Indian Chair of SCO in order to deepen people-to-people connections. With its involvement in 14 socio-cultural events, the SCO Observers and Dialogue Partners under Indian Chair demonstrated new levels of engagement.
Further, events such as SCO Film Festival, SCO Millet Food Festival, SCO Cultural showcase at SurajKund Mela, SCO Tourism Mart, “Conference on Shared Buddhist Heritage”, “B2B Conference on Traditional Medicine”, SCO International Conference of Think Tanks also took place.
Drawing focus on India’s cultural and civilisational heritage, Kashi/ Varanasi was celebrated as the 1st SCO Tourist and Cultural Capital of SCO 2022-23.
Youth Empowerment was another focus area of the Indian chair, with events such as Young Authors Conference, Young Scientist Conclave, Startup Forum, SCO Youth Council and Conference, and SCO Resident Researchers Programme where the SCO young scholar from Member State stayed in India for a month to conduct research activities.
Further, during India’s presidency of the SCO, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar virtually opened New Delhi Hall in the SCO Secretariat in Beijing. To commemorate India’s first SCO presidency, a commemorative stamp was issued.
On May 4-5 this year, India also hosted the Foreign Ministers of SCO in Goa, this was marked by a colourful cultural program and substantive discussions the following day. Goa showcased its warm hospitality, unique culture and distinct heritage.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State is all set to be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a virtual format, according to the statement released by SCO.
Under India’s leadership, the SCO Council of Heads of State will be held in a virtual format on July 4, 2023.
All the SCO Member States — China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — have been invited to attend the Summit.
In addition, Iran, Belarus and Mongolia have been invited as Observer States. As per the SCO tradition, Turkmenistan has also been invited as the guest of the Chair. Heads of the two SCO Bodies — the Secretariat and the SCO RATS — will also be present.
Further, heads of six international and regional organisations — UN, ASEAN, CIS, CSTO, EAEU and CICA — have also been invited to the summit.
India’s chairmanship of SCO has been a period of intense activity and mutually beneficial cooperation between Member States. India has hosted a total of 134 meetings and events, including 14 Ministerial-level meetings. India remains committed to playing a positive and constructive role in the organization and looks forward to a successful SCO Summit as the culmination of its Chairmanship.
The rotational presidency remains with India until September 2023.