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Address by Minister of State for External Affairs at the Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (December 15, 2015)

Address by Minister of State for External Affairs at the Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (December 15, 2015)

December 15, 2015

His Excellency Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China,

Heads of Government of SCO Member Countries and Observers, Dialogue Partners and Special Invitees,

Secretary General of the SCO,

Heads of delegations, distinguished guests,

It is a privilege for me to attend the Plenary Session of the SCO Heads of Government meeting. I wish to thank the Chair, Premier Li Keqiang, for the excellent arrangements made for this meeting. 
It is a pleasure to visit the beautiful city of Zhengzhou, a rapidly growing city that is emerging as an economic, educational and transportation centre of China. We are not far from Luoyang, where the famous White Horse Temple, marking the arrival of Buddhism in China from India is located. This represents India’s age-old links with this region of China.
The decision of the Heads of State Meeting in Ufa this July to include India as a member reflects the desire of member countries to significantly widen the scope of the organization. India’s membership will create a broader framework for SCO that brings together, for the first time in history, countries of Central, East and South Asia as well as Russia, into a Eurasian regional cooperation entity. 
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the Ufa Summit, this reflects the ‘natural links of history’ between India and the member states of the SCO. India enjoys excellent bilateral relations with all SCO countries. These political, cultural, spiritual and commercial links have existed through the centuries. The visit of the Prime Minister of India in July 2015 to all five Central Asian countries and Russia, as well as to China in May 2015, underline the importance that India places on revitalizing ties with the region. 
India looks forward to the speedy completion of India’s membership so that we can involve ourselves fully in SCO’s programmes and activities at the earliest. We are confident of receiving the support of all members, in particular Uzbekistan as the new Chair, in this regard. In the meantime, we have continued to take active part as Observer in meetings of the SCO Health, Trade, Interior and Justice Ministers as well as Prosecutors General meeting and the SCO Trade Fair this year.
Many of the problems confronting our region, especially the rising tide of cross-border terrorism and extremism, require transnational solutions. At the same time, if we are to fully realize the economic potential and progress of our shared region, we need to seek newer regional projects that can raise the level of our cooperation to a higher plane. 
International terrorism has emerged as the most serious threat to our peaceful and pluralistic societies. Terrorism threatens to derail our developmental aspirations and undermine our very way of life. Closer coordination between SCO member states and zero tolerance towards terrorism will go a long way to address this menace. Political convenience can no longer provide an alibi for backing terrorist groups ideologically, financially or through material support. Today the world has realized that there are no good terrorists. 
One of our most important goals remains a stable and peaceful Afghanistan free of external interference. This is absolutely essential to advance peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
There is enormous scope to push forward on the SCO’s economic and developmental agenda. India’s fast growing market provides an immense economic opportunity, especially for the relatively smaller economies of Central Asia. India’s energy requirements can be met by new and more ambitious energy projects within the SCO bringing on board the interests of energy exporting, transit and importing nations. 
On its part, India can bring to the region its strengths in financial management, especially micro-finance, pharmaceuticals, services such as IT and healthcare, as well as capacity building. The SCO should create a facilitating environment for trade and investment. We should bring down barriers to trade and enhance links between our businesses, especially our small and medium enterprises. We can also work together on issues of food security and agriculture.
The past few years have witnessed the steady growth of new modes of connectivity in our region. However, progress in this regard is still limited. As we move ahead, we should invest in improving regional transportation and communication networks through mutual consultation and sharing of benefits. On this basis, we can create new networks of physical and digital connectivity that extends from Russia’s northern regions to the shores of Indian Ocean. The International North South Transportation Corridor is an important step in that direction. 
In conclusion, Excellencies, I wish to state that a young and dynamic India, constituting one-sixth of humanity, which is growing at nearly 8% per year is joining the SCO to usher in a new phase of friendship with our partners. India recognizes that its extraordinary opportunities can be fulfilled faster and more fully through an active engagement within its shared neighbourhood. I invite our SCO partners to a partnership of mutual benefit and shared prosperity with India in the days ahead. 
Thank you!