Varanasi becomes the first ‘Cultural and Tourism Capital’ of SCO

Shangai Cooperation Organisation plans on promoting tourism and people-to-people contact across the eight member countries by picking a cultural capital every year. Varanasi is its first choice and rightly so.
Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest cities. Image: Shutterstock/Money Sharma.

Benaras, Kashi, the land of holy Ganges, one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities — Varanasi is known to different people by different names. Steeped in ancient history, it has fascinated the world throughout its existence, and continues to do so. That’s why it didn’t come off as a surprise when the so-called City of Lights was declared as the first ‘Cultural and Tourism Capital of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) for the period 2022-23.

Zhang Ming, the Secretary General of the bloc, confirmed the same in a recent report. SCO looks after the economic and security welfare of eight countries including China, India, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan. The organisation aims to promote tourism and people-to-people contact across the member countries.

The Beijing-headquartered SCO is planning to initiate a rotating mechanism, under which the title of ‘Cultural and Tourism Capital’ will be taking turns among different states. Under the initiative, each year, a city of the cultural heritage of a member country that will take over the rotating Presidency of the organisation will get the title to highlight its prominence.

New initiatives were also announced by the organisation ahead of this year’s Heads of the State summit of the SCO scheduled to be held at Samarkand in Uzbekistan from September 15-16 this year. The new initiative will come into force after the Samarkand summit following which India will take over the Presidency and host the next Heads of the State summit. India hosted the Head of the Government of the SCO meet in 2020.

In order to improve and encourage tourism across different regions, Kazakhstan has announced a visa-free policy for tourists from other countries as well as from India. Ming believes that the SCO members have rich resources with respect to tourism which should be explored.

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