The city of Varanasi has been named the first-ever SCO Tourist and Cultural Capital for the period 2022-2023 at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Samarkand on Friday. The nomination was announced at the meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State in Samarkand, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The development was later declared at a press meet by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra.
“The nomination of Varanasi as the first ever SCO Tourism and Cultural Capital will promote tourism, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between India and the SCO member Countries. It also underlines India’s ancient civilizational links with the Member States of SCO, especially the Central Asian Republics," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
Uzbekistan has handed over the rotating presidency of the grouping to India for the year 2022-23. "Prime Minister Modi thanked all the member states for endorsing Varanasi as the first ever SCO tourist and cultural capital during the upcoming year 2022-23," Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said.
He said the SCO recognition is befitting for the historic city that would open the door for greater cultural and people-to-people ties between India and the other member countries of the bloc.
“PM Modi thanked all the member states of the SCO for endorsing Varanasi (Kashi) as the first-ever SCO tourist and cultural capital during the upcoming year 2022-23,” Kwatra said.
He added that several events would be organised by the Uttar Pradesh government in collaboration with the Centre to celebrate the recognition.
The SCO Summit 2002 was held after three years after the 2019 Bishkek summit in Kyrgyzstan. The summit was attended by the heads of states of the SCO members — India, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The summit also decided to give permanent membership of the bloc to Belarus and Iran.
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about India's innovation and start-up models and said India can be transformed into a manufacturing hub. He also said all the countries in the forum can play a constructive role in the post-Covid era, particularly in furthering economic recovery and strengthening supply chains.
On the sidelines of the summit, Modi had a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, following which he tweeted that he had a great meeting, where they discussed India-Russia cooperation in different sectors.
Modi also met Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, where they reportedly discussed improving connectivity between South East Asia and Central Asia, and focused on Iran’s Chabahar Port. India has been pushing the port as a key regional transit hub.
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