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Focusing On Access To Central Asia, Modi Seeks Full Transit Rights Among SCO Member-states

Anticipation of one-on-one meeting with Xi on the sidelines of Summit following mutual troop disengagement from an LAC flashpoint

Photo Credit : Ministry of External Affairs

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 22nd SCO Summit at Samarkand in Uzbekistan on September 16

Sharpening its focus on strengthening linkages with Central Asia, India has called for a full right of transit among Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member-states. 

In his remarks at the 22nd Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at Samarkand in Uzbekistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 16 sought transit rights for better connectivity to overcome obstacles in supply chains caused by the Pandemic and the situation in Ukraine which have led to an “unprecedented energy and food crisis”.

“The pandemic and the crisis in Ukraine caused many obstacles in global supply chains, due to which the whole world is facing an unprecedented energy and food crisis. SCO must make efforts to develop reliable, resilient and diversified supply chains in our region. This will require better connectivity, as well as it will be important that we all give each other full right to transit,” Modi said, seeking “greater cooperation and mutual trust among SCO members”. 

The Pakistan obstacle has long blocked India’s access and outreach to the strategically important Central Asia, which New Delhi terms as India’s extended neighbourhood. India and Pakistan are members of the SCO. 

India hosted the first India-Central Asia Summit earlier this year, preceded by a Foreign Minister-level meeting. India’s messaging and vision at the 22nd Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO is a continuum of the effort to build linkages with Central Asia and the extended neighbourhood. 

Projecting India as the world’s fastest growing economy, Modi also sought a leadership position for India among SCO member-states as an economic powerhouse.  

“We are making progress on making India a manufacturing hub. India's young and talented workforce makes us naturally competitive. India's economy is expected to grow by 7.5 percent this year, which will be the highest among the world's largest economies. A lot of focus is also being given on the proper use of technology in our people-centric development model. 

“We are supporting innovation in every sector. Today, there are more than 70,000 Start-ups in India, of which more than 100 are unicorns. Our experience can also be useful for many other SCO members. For this purpose, we are ready to share our experience with SCO member countries by establishing a new Special Working Group on Start-ups and Innovation,” Prime Minister Modi said. 

He also proposed promotion of millets cultivation as a possible solution to the ongoing crisis in food security. 

“One possible solution to this problem is to promote the cultivation and consumption of millets. Millets are a superfood that has been grown for thousands of years, not just in SCO countries, but in many parts of the world, and is a traditional, nutritious, and low-cost alternative to dealing with the food crisis. The year 2023 will be celebrated as the UN International Year of Millets. We should consider organizing a 'Millet Food Festival' under the SCO,” Modi said. 

The Prime Minister also highlighted India as one of the world’s most affordable destinations for medical and wellness tourism and made aa strong case for promoting traditional medicine. “WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine was inaugurated in Gujarat in April 2022. This will be WHO's first and only global centre for traditional medicine. We must increase cooperation on traditional medicine among SCO countries. For this, India will take the initiative for a new SCO Working Group on Traditional Medicine,” he announced. 

On the sidelines of the SCO Summit, Modi met President Erdogan of Turkey. “The two leaders discussed ways to deepen bilateral cooperation in diverse sectors,” the Prime Minister’s Office Tweeted. 

Although these are not mentioned on the Prime Minister’s itinerary, there is anticipation of Modi’s one-on-one meetings with the Presidents of China, Russia and Iran on the sidelines. 

There’s been a lot of speculation about a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping following the disengagement of troops from Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area of the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh on September 13, resolving one of the military flashpoints which had resulted following China’s unilateral advance in May 2020.