Samarkand, Uzbekistan: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday said the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member countries should work out an enhanced connectivity plan with “free transit rights” in an effort to create “reliable, resilient and diversified supply chains”.
Speaking at the Council of Heads of States of SCO member states, PM Modi said food and energy security should be given utmost priority by the SCO considering the current global situation.
“The Covid pandemic and Ukraine crisis have posed severe challenges for supply chains. This has adversely impacted food and energy security of the world. SCO should ensure that it creates reliable, resilient and diversified supply chains,” Modi said.
The SCO Summit is taking place at The Eternal City, an exclusive township created for this event by the Uzbek government on the outskirts of the historic city of Samarkand.
PM Modi is accompanied by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
This is the first time since 2019 that the SCO is meeting in person, under the chairmanship of Uzbekistan. Later this month India will take over the chairmanship and the next summit will be held in New Delhi in the summer of 2023.
According to Modi, in order to effectively address the food and energy security crisis within the SCO region, as well as in the world, it is crucial that all SCO members give “each other free transit rights”.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, however, refuted Modi’s call for free transit rights, saying it’s important to first have “seamless connectivity within the SCO countries”.
Modi proposed the creation of a special working group on start-ups within the SCO, and highlighted India’s growing start-up ecosystem.
“We are making rapid progress in transforming India into a manufacturing hub,” said Modi, adding that the start-up ecosystem in India, supported by rising economic growth, is contributing towards the country’s growth.
Emphasising on the issue of food security, Modi said, this is an opportune moment to promote the production of millet, and pushed the SCO nations to focus on that aspect.
“Millet is a superfood that has been grown for thousands of years, not only in SCO countries but in many parts of the world, and is a traditional, nutritious and low-cost alternative to combating the food crisis. The year 2023 will be celebrated as the UN International Year of Millets. We should consider organising a ‘Millet Food Festival’ under SCO,” he added.
Modi also spoke of India being among the most affordable destinations for medical and wellness tourism in the world today.
“The WHO Global Center for Traditional Medicine was inaugurated in Gujarat in April 2022. This will be WHO’s first and only global center for traditional medicine. We should increase cooperation on traditional medicine among SCO countries. For this, India will take initiative on a new SCO Working Group on Traditional Medicine,” he added.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he will “support India” in its chairmanship of SCO for 2023.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)