Modi says biggest challenges in region related to peace, security and trust deficit
New Delhi, September 17, 2021
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the biggest challenges in the region are related to peace, security and trust deficit, the root cause of which is increasing radicalisation, and pointed out that the recent developments in Afghanistan had made this more apparent.
Addressing the plenary session of the 21st Meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State, Modi said SCO member-states should take an initiative on this issue.
"If we look at the history, we will find that the region of Central Asia has been a bastion of moderate and progressive cultures and values. Traditions like Sufism have flourished here over the centuries and spread throughout the region and the world. We can still see their influence in the cultural heritage of this region. On the basis of this historical heritage of Central Asia, SCO should develop a common template to fight radicalization and extremism," he said.
The Prime Minister said that, in India and in almost all SCO countries, there are moderate, tolerant and inclusive institutions and traditions associated with Islam.
"SCO should work to develop a strong network between them. In this context, I appreciate the useful work being done by SCO-RATS. We expect our SCO partners to actively participate in the calendar of activities that has been built for India’s Presidency of SCO-RATS," he said.
"Fighting radicalization is not only necessary for regional security and mutual trust, but it is also necessary for the bright future of our younger generations. To compete with the developed world, our region has to become a stakeholder in emerging technologies. For this we have to encourage our talented youth towards science and rational thinking," he said.
Modi said the SCO could promote this kind of thinking and innovative spirit by connecting their young entrepreneurs and start-ups. "With this approach, India organized the first SCO Start-Up Forum and Young Scientists Conference last year. In the previous years, India has successfully used technology in its development journey," he said.
Modi began his address by noting that SCO was celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
"It is a matter of happiness that new friends are joining us on this auspicious occasion. I welcome Iran as a new Member State of the SCO. I also welcome the three new Dialogue Partners - Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar. The expansion of SCO shows the growing influence of our organization. SCO will become stronger and more credible with new Members and Dialogue Partners," he said.
"The 20th anniversary of the SCO is also a suitable occasion to think about the future of the SCO," he said.
The Prime Minister said that, whether it is technologies like UPI and Rupay Card to increase financial inclusion or digital platforms like Aarogya-Setu and COWIN in the fight against COVID, India had voluntarily shared these with other countries as well. "We will be happy to share these open source technologies also with our SCO partners and to organize capacity building activities for this," he said.
"The vast economic potential of this region has also remained untapped due to radicalization and insecurity, be it mineral wealth or intra-SCO trade. To take full advantage of them, we have to emphasize on mutual connectivity. The role of Central Asia in history has been that of a connectivity bridge between major regional markets. This was also the basis of the prosperity of this region. India is committed to increasing its connectivity with Central Asia.
"We believe that land-locked Central Asian countries can benefit immensely by connecting with India's vast market. Unfortunately, many connectivity options are not open to them today due to lack of mutual trust. Our investment in Iran's Chabahar port and our efforts towards the International North-South Corridor are driven by this reality," he said.
Modi said any initiative on connectivity could not be a one-way street. "The connectivity projects should be consultative, transparent and participatory to ensure mutual trust. In this regard, respect for the territorial integrity of all countries should be implicit. Based on these principles, SCO should develop suitable norms for connectivity projects in the region," he said.
"With this we will be able to restore the traditional connectivity of this region and only then connectivity projects will work to connect us, not to increase the distance between us. For this effort, India is ready to make any contribution from its side," he said.
The Prime Minister said that one of the main reasons for the success of SCO was that its core focus had been on the priorities of the region.
"My suggestions on radicalization, connectivity and people-to-people relations will further strengthen this role of SCO," he added.