Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and others pose for photographs during Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. (PTI)
NEW DELHI: In a veiled pointer at Pakistan at the Shanghai Cooperation Summit (SCO) Summit at the Uzbek city of Samarkand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday pitched for better connectivity and full transit rights within countries of the eight-nation grouping that comprises both the South Asian nations.
In a comment that is being seen in the backdrop of the actions of China and Pakistan in recent years that led to increased conflict with New Delhi, Modi said, "India supports greater cooperation and mutual trust among SCO members."
Referring to the Covid pandemic and the Ukraine conflict and crisis that has caused obstacles in global supply chains resulting in a unprecedented global energy and food crisis, Modi said that the "SCO must make efforts to develop reliable, resilient and diversified supply chains in our region."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that a possible solution to the global food crisis was to "promote the cultivation and consumption of millets," a "superfood" of which India is the leading global producer. He also advocated an SCO millet food festival.
Speaking of India as a manufacturing hub and pointing to the success of start-ups, the Prime Minister announced that the country was "ready to share our experience with SCO member countries by establishing a new special working group on start-ups and innovation. He said India would take the initiative for a new SCO working group on traditional medicine.
At the SCO Summit, Modi participated in both the "restricted" meeting of the eight member-nations and the "extended" meeting of SCO nations and observer/guest nations. Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, congratulated India on "assuming the next SCO Presidency" (on a rotational basis) and said China "will support India during its Presidency".
Modi and Xi were seen standing next to each other in a group photo of leaders at the extended meeting but there were no reports of any handshake or conversation between them.
The strong pitch, meanwhile, by Modi for full transit rights is being seen as a pointer at Pakistan which has consistently been a stumbling block for connectivity within near-defunct south Asian grouping SAARC and has also blocked the land route for export of Indian goods to Central Asia that led to India’s connectivity push to Central Asia via the Iranian sea-port of Chabahar.
In his address at the SCO Summit, Modi said, "India supports greater cooperation and mutual trust among SCO members. 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.
PM further said, "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. ... 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."
The Prime Minister said, "The world faces another major challenge today – and that is ensuring the food security of our citizens. 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."
He added, "India is today one of the most affordable destinations for medical and wellness tourism in the world. ... 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."