Interview of the SCO Secretary General with Press Trust of India

Press Trust of India

1. What is Your assessment of India's contribution to the SCO and what new dimensions has the Organization acquired since India became a member?

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a key Eurasian platform for international cooperation. It is home to almost half of the World's population and produces about a quarter of the world's GDP. These indicators clearly demonstrate the huge potential of the SCO, the implementation of which becomes the main issue on its agenda. We have the right to speak about the transcontinental nature of our Organization and its significant contribution to international security. At the same time, we are open to broad international cooperation in the vast Eurasian space, our activities and plans have a continental and Maritime dimension in political, economic and humanitarian aspects. With India's accession to the SCO as a full member, completely new opportunities for further development and deepening of full-scale cooperation have opened up. The role of the SCO as an important mechanism for shaping regional and global policies, ensuring security and sustainable development has been strengthened.

We highly appreciate the efforts of the Indian side to further deepen
mutually beneficial cooperation within the SCO. At the recent SCO summits in Qingdao and Bishkek, in which India participated as a full member, Prime Minister Modi put forward a number of important proposals aimed at further deepening cooperation in ensuring regional security, strengthening economic cooperation, developing alternative energy sources and protecting the environment.

In particular, at the last SCO Summit Mr. Narendra Modi made a number of proposals to activate key areas of interaction. He noted that there should be a common vision of strengthening healthy cooperation in our region. In his opinion, the letters that add up as the word HEALTH can be a great format for collaboration:

H- Healthcare cooperation
E- Economic cooperation
A- Alternative energy sources
L- Literature and culture
T- Terrorism free society
H- Humanitarian cooperation

An important positive factor for improving cooperation within the SCO in order to enhance India's political profile in the Eurasian region is also strengthening of its interaction with the SCO Member States. Today, cooperation is gaining momentum across the entire spectrum of political, trade, economic and humanitarian fields.

I often recall the words of Prime Minister Modi at the SCO Bishkek Summit that "India has far-reaching broad plans to increase the role and authority of the SCO in the international arena."

In this regard, I would like to note that the active position of the Prime Minister of India to strengthen the opportunities both for continuing strategic structural changes on a national scale, and for building stable long-term relations with the SCO Member States, as well as for fully increasing the role of India not only in regional but also in world Affairs. His visits to SCO countries served as a powerful impetus to give a new quality not only to the development of bilateral relations, but also to strengthen cooperation within the SCO. The fight against terrorism, strengthening security, economic and energy ties, and expansion of cultural and humanitarian relations have become important topics in discussions between the Prime Minister and the leaders of SCO member states.

In General, we see India as a dynamically developing economic power, a large state that is worthy and capable of playing an important role in regional Affairs and world politics.

2. With the world facing a coronavirus pandemic, what role do you assign to India, which is known as the "Pharmacy of the world"?
The coronavirus pandemic has crossed national borders, and today it is a global problem that affects all countries, including India, which is courageously fighting this silent and insidious enemy. I am particularly pleased to note that your country is not only taking effective measures to prevent and treat this disease in the national context, but is also a strong supporter of joining international efforts, speaking as one with other SCO Member States.

India today sets the tone in many regional and global initiatives. It has a good reason for this: it relies on its vast experience and deep knowledge in the field of medicine and health management, including the production of highquality, affordable medicines, equipment and vaccines.
Your country has become the world's largest producer of generic medicines, accounting for 20% of global production, and meeting 62% of global demand for vaccines. India ranks 3rd in the world in terms of drug production, has licenses for 60 thousand generic brands and produces more than 500 different active pharmaceutical ingredients. There are more than 3000 pharmaceutical companies operating in the country with an extensive network of 11 thousand manufacturing enterprises. Thus India plays the role of "Pharmacy of the world", and in terms of a pandemic it is crucial in a global context.

Taking into account India's commitment to international cooperation and solidarity, as well as its positive contribution to supporting the world's most important institutions of cooperation, I give it priority in efforts to reach a consensus on the Central role of the UN and WHO. This is more than symbolic now as India secures its non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council for the period of 2021-2022.

I am sure that highly qualified scientists and medical professionals in India will take an active part in the efforts of the world community to study and research the coronavirus pandemic and develop a vaccine.

They will also help the world community prevent the spread of viral diseases in the future. India's own experience in the fight against epidemiological diseases, which is very useful for the world community, also deserves attention.

It is not surprising that many countries of the world today have turned to India for medical assistance, especially given its solid medical infrastructure, huge pharmaceutical potential, and its achievements in training doctors and other medical personnel.

I attach great importance to the fact that, as part of the consolidation of efforts for the global fight against COVID-19, India took the initiative to convene a meeting of SAARC leaders, during which the "SAARC Emergency Response Fund" was established with an initial Indian contribution of $ 10 million. Another major diplomatic success was that Your country was the first to offer to hold a videoconference of the G20 leaders, and in the course of doing so, it introduced a number of important and significant initiatives.

India has also played an active role in providing assistance to many countries, including the SCO Member States, in the supply of medicines and essential drugs. To date, India has supplied medicines to 133 countries in the fight against coronavirus, which in itself shows India's generosity, despite the fact that the country's government has taken urgent measures to prevent and treat the disease on a national scale. This is a worthy and responsible example of the behavior of a major power. At the same time, this demonstrates the complementarity and mutual support of the SCO Member States.

India's policy and practice in the international arena in the context of the coronavirus pandemic have fully proved the correctness of the course outlined by Prime Minister Modi at the Bishkek Summit in 2019 — the priority of cooperation in the field of health.

3. In your speech at the Raisina Dialogue Forum in New Delhi in January 2020, You mentioned that the SCO is following with great interest the approaches of India and the ASEAN States to the Indo-Pacific region." Could you explain this in more detail? Does the SCO plan to expand cooperation in the geographical area of the Indo-Pacific region and ASEAN?

I approach the assessment of various concepts of development of States and international associations based on the basic principles of our Organization, which are expressed in the "Shanghai spirit", embodying mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diversity of cultures and the desire for joint development. The principle of non-confrontationality, that is, nondirectionality against any state or international Association, may also be added. On the qualitative side, these principles characterize the SCO as an organization of multidisciplinary cooperation, devoid of any signs of a militarypolitical bloc. We do not have hegemonic ambitions, all issues in the Organization are resolved on a consensual basis, that is, regardless of state power and authority. This is why multilateral diplomacy is so important in the SCO. If you want to implement your initiative, convince others of its relevance and relevance within the Organization.

Apparently, these characteristics became the most attractive for India when it decided to join the SCO as a full member. By the way, I would like to recall that this was preceded by a consistent process, as India actively participated in the Organization's activities as an Observer for 12 years.

Therefore, I am following with great interest the formation of India and the ASEAN States' own approaches to cooperation in the Asian region, and I draw attention to their creative, inclusive and non-confrontational nature, which implies multi-disciplinary cooperation, connectivity and sustainable development, respect for international law, and openness to all who wish to work on the basis of these principles. After all, only through our joint efforts will we be able to unite the vast sea and land space on the vast Eurasian continent, and unite the surrounding continents and regions around Eurasia.

We see far-reaching meaning in deepening interaction between the think tanks of the SCO and ASEAN Member States. In the current volatile global situation, experts and scientists must fully fulfill their predictive duty. It seems to me that in India, the discussion process aimed at forming positions on major regional and global issues continues at various expert platforms.

We are very interested in the course of this discussion. So far, the expert community in the SCO "family" States is not sufficiently familiar with the mainstream of Indian political thought. We would like to expand the scope of our understanding and meet more often with Indian political scientists, including at the SCO discussion platforms.

Figuratively speaking, the SCO's political, economic and humanitarian practices are the outlines of the geostrategic development of Eurasia. In fact, we are talking about the long-term construction of the Eurasian space, starting from its core, which is Central Asia, and centripetally to its outer perimeter. The main thing in the SCO approach is to ensure security and political stability in the entire Eurasian space, on the basis of which economic and social dynamics should be accelerated.

Not virtual design, but practical implementation of this strategy goes both through the strengthening of multilateral relations between Member States, and through the formation of partnerships with international and regional organizations — the UN and its structural divisions, the EEU, ASEAN, CIS, CSTO, BRICS.

4. In November 2020, India will host a meeting of the Council of Heads of Government, the first major SCO event in India. What do you expect from India at this meeting?

The SCO has been at the center of large-scale economic initiatives that will be Central to determining the future path of Eurasia's development. Today, we are working hard to link national strategic plans for economic development. Given the multilateral nature of cooperation in the implementation of initiatives, the most important element is political coordination, coordination of national interests on the basis of multilateral discussion on a wide range of areas, which would be aimed at finding mutually acceptable solutions, would determine the strategy and concrete steps of joint activities.

Moving in the same direction, in November 2019 The Council of heads of government of the SCO Member States in Tashkent approved a new version of the Program of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation of the SCO Member States until 2035, which provides for the implementation of tasks for the balanced development of effective transport infrastructure and the expansion of the use of digital technologies and intelligent systems in transport. It also adopted one of the most important documents in the field of railway cooperation — the Concept of Interaction between the Railway Administrations of the SCO Member States, which laid the legal basis for the development of cooperation in the field of railway transport.

New prospects for trade and economic cooperation open up with the formation of the North-South transport corridor stretching over 7 thousand kilometers, as well as with India's accession to the Ashgabat agreement on the formation of a new international transport and transit route. These projects of transit transportation of goods through the infrastructure of railways and roads, seaports will create conditions for sustainable economic development of the participating countries. In this way, the giant transport corridor will connect St. Petersburg with the Indian port of Mumbai.

In 2020 India will host for the first time a meeting of the Council of Heads of Government (CGH), which is responsible for making decisions in the field of trade and economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation. Member States appreciated India's willingness to host the meeting on 29-30 November 2020. The first meeting of the Consortium of Economic Think Tanks will be held in India prior to the CHG meeting. This new mechanism is intended to serve as a platform for studying and comprehensive analysis of factors affecting economic interaction within the SCO, taking into account global and regional processes.

As one of the fastest growing major economies in the world, India is seen as a "powerful engine" of the overall development of SCO. In the rapidly developing global dynamics, your country has established itself as a leading player in the economic arena. The world sees India as a reliable partner in trade and investment as India is rapidly reforming its national economy, has a flexible investment policy, has a large domestic market, a young and skilled workforce and is an attractive partner in international economic and financial markets.

India's desire to play a significant role in the SCO was expressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the SCO summits in Qingdao and Bishkek. In order to strengthen economic cooperation within the SCO, the Indian Prime Minister, in particular, proposed to develop alternative energy sources, capacity building in information technology, telemedicine, pharmaceuticals, medical tourism, financial, hotel and tourism services, as well as environmental protection.

Since joining the SCO as a full member, India has continued to expand its trade and economic relations with partner members. Since India's accession to the SCO, foreign trade turnover with SCO countries has increased by 21 per cent and reached $100 billion between 2018 and 2019. India is a huge market for SCO member States. In turn, the SCO region is also attractive for Indian producers. The SCO member States are working to create favourable conditions for the movement of goods and investment in the SCO region.

Given India's experience in digitalization and telecommunications, electronic governance, smart cities, intelligent management systems and new production technologies, India could play a leading role in the development of the SCO region. As one of the world's largest producers of renewable energy, your country has established the "International Solar Alliance" aimed at mobilizing technologies and financial resources to reduce the cost of solar energy. I believe it is important for the Organization to carefully study its experience, given that most SCO member States should take full advantage of their geographical location to produce cheap electricity.

There is no doubt that the upcoming SCO events led by India will exceed all our joint expectations and lead to the signing of a solid package of documents. Nevertheless, we have much to do together to enhance trade, economic and investment cooperation. For this purpose, we will have to improve the mechanism of investment cooperation, create consulting structures that would help businesses enter the markets of SCO member States and ensure the attraction of investments, loans and repatriation of profits. Secondly, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, economy and trade of our countries should take prompt measures to ensure the visa and customs regime. Thirdly, the time has come for comprehensive consideration of the development and implementation of the plans for international transport corridors, which our countries need so much. However, we cannot solve them alone; we need the collective efforts of all member states to widely expand the horizons of our cooperation in Eurasia.

5. The SCO Member States, with the exception of India, have fully endorsed Belt and Road initiative in the SCO documents. As SCO Secretary General, what role do you see for yourselves to reconcile this difference between India's principled position and that of other member states?

As I have already mentioned, when making decisions in the SCO, the member states are guided by the principle of consensus. The same principle also applies to the approval of political documents. At the same time, there are precedents in our practice when, in cases when a state is not interested in the implementation of certain cooperation projects that are of interest to other Member States, " the non-participation of the said Member States in them does not prevent the said Member States from implementing such cooperation projects and, at the same time, does not prevent the said Member States from further joining the implementation of such projects". Such a situation is legally fixed in the SCO Charter, demonstrating democracy and flexibility in decisionmaking on practical and procedural issues.

Therefore, I do not see anything dramatic in the discrepancy between the views of India and the majority of Member States on BRI. The situation in the world and the region is constant moving, political and economic conditions are changing. It is a political philosophy, dialectic of development. The main thing in SCO is the ideology of cooperation, non-confrontation, aiming at peace, cooperation and security. Economic cooperation is the foundation of the future of our peoples. We need a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and comprehensive multilateral trade system oriented towards the World Trade Organization.

This will protect the interests of all Member States, especially developing States. India is committed to creating an environment for the full expansion of economic activity, which is a priority for SCO Member States.

6. Terrorism is a common threat to all SCO countries and the Organization has strong security capabilities. Cross-border terrorism and its financing remains a particularly serious challenge for India. What measures can be taken within the SCO to overcome this problem?

India fully shares the SCO's approach to countering terrorism and extremism as a major threat to regional security and stability. I would like to note India's active participation in SCO security mechanisms, including within the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure, through secretaries of security councils, Ministers of Defence, Interior, Justice, Attorney generals, judicial authorities and others. We attach great importance to the participation of Indian army units and divisions in military anti-terrorist exercises.

Developments in this region and security problems cannot but concern our countries. The fight against terrorism and attempts to destabilize the situation in Afghanistan continue to carry potential dangers. All SCO States share common concerns about the threats of terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.

On the whole, SCO has made many achievements in the security sphere. The Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure in Tashkent is working with good results. Joint anti-terrorist exercises "Peace Mission" are regularly conducted.

Given SCO's leading role in this area, we have established close partnerships with the relevant United Nations bodies — the Office on Drugs and Crime, the UN Counter terrorism mechansims, as well as with partners from the CIS and CSTO.

Countering the financing of terrorism is viewed by SCO member States as one of the priority areas of multilateral counter-terrorism cooperation. A broad package of documents aimed at suppressing any form of supply of terrorist activities has been adopted by the Organization. Gathering information on the sources of financial and material support for terrorist organizations is one of the priorities of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure. Thus, in 2019, under the coordination of its Executive Committee, 5,500 bank accounts and 24 channels for terrorist financing were blocked.

The SCO countries have consistently emphasized the need to consolidate international efforts to effectively address this issue. Our focus is on the growing symbiosis between international terrorism and other cross-border challenges and threats. In this context, the phenomenon of drug terrorism is of particular concern, as the proceeds from drug trafficking fuel terrorist activities. In order to draw additional attention to this problem, on 19 November 2019 in New York a joint UN and SCO high-level event was held with the participation of UN Secretary General António Guterres.

It is also important to note that in last autumn, with the participation of the SCO Secretariat, the Second International Conference on "Countering Illicit Arms Transfers in the Context of Combating International Terrorism" was held in Moscow. In addition, as a part of implementing the SCO anti-drug strategy, an international anti-drug operation "Spider web" is conducted annually, which is aimed, particularly, at countering the financing of terrorist activities from the proceeds of drug trafficking. As a result of this operation, over 10 tons of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances have been seized by the competent authorities of SCO member States over the past two years. At the same time, the fight against financing of terrorism requires continuous improvement of its institutional mechanisms.

That is why the issue of expanding the powers of the SCO Regional Anti-terrorist Structure is currently under consideration. The SCO fully agrees with Prime Minister Modi's position that "a united, peaceful, secure and prosperous Afghanistan is an important factor for stability and security in the SCO region. Our goal is to support the efforts of the Government and people of Afghanistan to launch a comprehensive peace process in Afghanistan that is initiated, led and controlled by Afghanistan".

In this regard, the Organization is working towards a political solution to the situation in Afghanistan, including by supporting the economic recovery of the country. The work of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, which meets regularly at the level of Deputy Foreign Ministers, is oriented towards achieving these goals. Concrete steps are defined in the relevant Road Map. We expect that its next meeting will take place in the near future.


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