New Delhi: In what can go as a landmark speech in days to come, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech to the SCO Summit on Friday (September 17), reminded all stakeholders of the "moderate, tolerant and inclusive" face of Islam and said these elements ought to be strengthened in the contemporary setting.
"In India and perhaps in all SCO countries, there is a rich tradition of moderate, tolerant and inclusive face of Islam. The SCO network should work to strengthen these," Mr Modi said in his address to the plenary session of the 21st meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Dushanbe in Tajikistan.
The Prime Minister diagnosed 'radicalisation' as a major and the biggest challenge to peace and said the developments in Afghanistan could only strengthen his argument.
"Threats to Peace, Security and Trust Deficit are three major areas of concern," he said.
Notably, his remarks came through the video link in the presence of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has openly backed hardliner Taliban in Afghanistan and leaders such as Xi Jinping of China and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In these contexts, he said SCO's RATS – Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), headquartered in Tashkent in Uzbekistan, is doing a good job and should be appreciated.
He said, "India is committed to increasing its connectivity with Central Asia. We believe that landlocked Central Asian countries can benefit immensely by connecting with India's vast market," he said.
The Prime Minister said, "If we take a closer look at history, we can find that Central Asia has a long tradition of moderate and progressive cultures and values."
"Sufism has flourished in this region and also also spread across the world," he said, adding, these glimpses can be found in today's era as well.
The Prime Minister said in the 20th year of SCO, it is high time the challenges are grasped in their entirety.
"Peace, security and trust deficit are three major areas of concern," he said and maintained these are linked to 'radicalisation'. The developments in Afghanistan have made things only clearer," he said.
He further said no connectivity initiative could be a one-way project.
"To ensure mutual trust, connectivity projects should be consultative, transparent and participatory. There should be respect for the territorial integrity of all countries," Modi added perhaps in reference to SCO's founding member and a key stakeholder in the region, China.
"India is committed to increasing its connectivity with Central Asia. We believe that landlocked central Asian countries can benefit immensely by connecting with India's vast market," he said.
He welcomed Iran as a new member country of the SCO and said, "I also welcome the three new dialogue partners – Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar."
Mr Modi also said that talented youngsters need to be encouraged towards science and rational thinking.
"We can bring our startups and entrepreneurs together to make the innovative spirit towards making India a stakeholder in an emerging technology," he said.