The city of Varanasi has been nominated as the first-ever SCO Tourism and Cultural Capital during the period 2022-2023 at the 22nd Meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Heads of State in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on Friday, September 16.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping of China had participated in the Summit.
“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,” an MEA release said.
The move also underlines India’s ancient civilizational links with Member States of SCO, especially the Central Asian Republics.
“Under the framework of this major cultural outreach program, a number of events will be hosted in Varanasi during 2022-23, for which guests will be invited to participate from SCO Member States,” the release said.
These events are expected to attract Indologists, scholars, authors, musicians and artists, photojournalists, travel bloggers and other invited guests.
The regulations for nomination of the SCO Tourism and Cultural Capital were adopted at the Dushanbe SCO Summit in 2021 with an objective of promoting cooperation between the SCO Member States in the field of culture and tourism, the release said.
The full SCO membership was given to India and Pakistan in 2017.
Belarus, Mongolia and Afghanistan have observer status but no Taliban regime was invited for the Dushanbe in 2021 event as SCO members have reservations about the new dispensation in Kabul. Taliban was not invited in 2022 as well. Iran is also a member of SCO while platform currently comprises eight Member States (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan),
Importantly, six other countries – Sri Lanka, Turkey, Nepal, Cambodia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are ‘negotiating partners’ of the SCO which is generally seen as a body controlled jointly by Russia and China.