Varanasi has been nominated as the first-ever SCO Tourism and Cultural Capital for the year 2022-2023 at the 22nd Meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit at Uzbekistan's Samarkand on Friday. The development was confirmed by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra at a press briefing.
"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. It also underlines India’s ancient civilizational links with Member States of SCO, especially the Central Asian Republics," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
Several events will be held in Varanasi under this cultural outreach programme. Guests will be invited from the SCO member states to participate in these events. "These events are expected to attract Indologists, scholars, authors, musicians and artists, photojournalists, travel bloggers and other invited guests," the MEA stated. The move will give a boost to tourism in the holy city of India.
Notably, the regulations for the nomination of the SCO Tourism and Cultural Capital were adopted at the Dushanbe SCO Summit in 2021 with an aim to promote cooperation between the SCO Member States in the field of culture and tourism.
The SCO Summit 2002 was held on September 15 and 16 at Uzbekistan's Samarkand. It was the first in-person summit after the 2019 Bishkek summit in Kyrgyzstan. The summit saw the participation of the heads of states of the SCO members — India, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The summit also decided to give permanent membership of the bloc to Belarus and Iran.