On July 4, 2023, the Prime Minister (PM) of India Narendra Modi chaired the 23rd Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) Summit which was held in a virtual format.
- India, as the Chair of the SCO, hosted the SCO-CHS Summit for the first time. India assumed the chairmanship of the SCO in September 2022.
Note: Previously,Vice President Shri Venkaiah Naidu chaired the 19th Meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Governments (CHG) hosted by India for the first time in November 2020.This was the first time that India chaired a SCO(CHG) level Meeting.
Theme of the Summit:
‘Towards a SECURE SCO’
- SECURE stands for Security; Economy (and Trade); Connectivity; Unity; Respect (for Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity); and Environment.
Key topics discussed at the Summit:
i.These include situation in Afghanistan, the Ukraine conflict, and increased cooperation among member countries.
ii.Participants deliberated on strategies to boost connectivity and trade.
iii.PM Narendra Modi mentioned about five pillars of the SCO-s vision: security, economic development, connectivity, unity, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and environmental protection.
New Delhi Declaration:
During the summit, the member nations signed the New Delhi Declaration coined by the Indian Government to fight against terrorism. It envisages developing common principles and approaches to form a unified list of terrorist, separatist and extremist organizations whose activities are prohibited on the territories of the SCO Member States.
- The Declaration also proposes four other joint statements on de-radicalisation, sustainable lifestyle to tackle climate change, production of millets and digital transformation.
Point to be Noted: Under this declaration, India refused to sign the paragraph supporting China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With this, India is only nation who does not endorsed this agreement.
- However, other SCO member nations viz. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will jointly implement this project, including efforts to link the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union and BRI.
The leaders also adopted the following two thematic joint statements:
i.Countering Radicalization leading to Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism:
Under this, member states are determined to deepen law enforcement and security cooperation within the organization, promote multilateral cooperation, strengthen coordination at global, regional and national levels, and coordinate responses to traditional and non-traditional security threats and challenges.
- The nation will exchange practical experience on how to ensure the security of major international events held on the territory of the SCO states.
ii.Cooperation in the field of Digital Transformation:
Under this, the member states will collaborate to explore the potential of digitalization in various fields, as development of digital technologies will promote data applications to better serve all aspects of economic, social and cultural life. Click Here for Full Statement
PM Modi presents Indian AI-based language platform ‘Bhashini’ at SCO
The PM Narendra Modi presented the AI (artificial intelligence) and Natural Language Processing (NLP)-based language platform ‘Bhashini’ at SCO summit which can transcend language barriers by translating in-real time and allowing people from different languages to interact with one another over digital platforms.
Note: At present, the official languages of SCO are Mandarin and Russian.India is proposing to include English as the official language of the group.
In 2022, PM Modi launched Bhashini under the National Language Technology Mission (NLTM). Developed by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), its aim is to bring the non-English speaking population of the nation to the global internet and help them access it in their language itself.
- It is one of the key missions by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).
- Bhashini has a data repository and a model repository.
- The Universal Language Contribution API (ULCA) is also part of Bhashini.
Iran joins SCO as its 9th Permanent Member
During the summit, Iran became the new permanent member (9th) of SCO. Now, the member nations of SCO increased to 9 viz. China, Russia, India, Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
- This highlights the growing interest of other countries in joining the SCO, emphasizing the organization’s importance.
Belarus set to become a full member of SCO charter by 2024
Belarus is set to become a full member by 2024 as the nation signed a Memorandum of Obligations which will lead to its membership.
Kazakhstan takes over SCO Presidency from India
The presidency of the SCO for the forthcoming period is handed over to the Republic of Kazakhstan. The next meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State will be held in 2024 in the Kazakhstan.
The President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also proposed closer energy cooperation within the SCO.
- In this regard, suggestions were made on hosting an SCO energy conference and developing a joint energy strategy for the organisation.
Heads of the SCO secretariat and the SCO RATS (Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure) which include President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyzstan President Sadyr Japarov, Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev
- Turkmenistan is a permanent invitee, while Presidents of Iran, Belarus and Mongolia have been invited as Observer States.
- The summit has invited six international and regional organizations, including the United Nations (UN), Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union), and CICA (Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia).
Note: The 2022 SCO Summit was held in person, and all leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended the summit in Samarkand.
It is a 9-member intergovernmental organization that was founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001. The main goals of the SCO are to strengthen mutual trust and good-neighborliness among member states, promote their effective cooperation in political, trade, economic, and other areas.
- 4 Observer States: Mongolia, Iran, Belarus, Afghanistan
- 6 Dialogue Partners: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Turkey, Nepal
Static Points: India’s SCO Presidency
i.India had joined the SCO as an observer country in 2005 and became a full member state in 2017 along with Pakistan.
ii.India hosted at least 140 SCO events and 14 Ministerial meetings since September 2022.
- India assumed the rotating chairmanship of the SCO at the Samarkand Summit on September 16, 2022.
iii.India has also set up new working groups during the year on several issues including Startups and Innovation; Traditional Medicine and Digital Inclusion.
iv.India created five new pillars and focus areas of cooperation in SCO. These are startups and innovation, traditional medicine, digital inclusion, youth empowerment, and shared Buddhist heritage.
v.Two new mechanisms in SCO — Special Working Group on Startups and Innovation and Experts Working Group on Traditional Medicine — were created on India’s initiative.
vi.A commemorative stamp was released on June 15, 2023 to mark the first-ever SCO presidency of India.