India will host the 19th council of heads of government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation next year, the first such high level meeting of the eight-member grouping to be organised by New Delhi after its admission into the grouping in 2017, SCO Secretary General Vladimir Norov said on Tuesday.
The SCO is a China-led eight-member economic and security bloc in which India and Pakistan were admitted as full members in 2017. Its founding members included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
"I would like to say that in 2020, India will host a meeting of the heads of the government for the first time," Mr Norov said on Tuesday while briefing the media on the outcome of the 18th meeting of SCO's council of heads of government held at Tashkent early this month.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh represented India at the summit in Tashkent.
The SCO has four observer states, namely Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia. It has six dialogue partners, namely Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka.
The SCO, which has its headquarters in Beijing, holds summits of heads of states as well as heads of government meetings annually in member countries. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the summit, the heads of the government meetings are attended by senior Cabinet Ministers.
From China, President Xi Jinping attends the SCO summit while Premier Li Keqiang attends the heads of the government meetings.
It was proposed at the Tashkent meeting by member states to India to take the initiative to hold the 2020 meetings of the heads of the government and India has agreed, Mr Norov said.
"I would like to highlight the growing economic importance of the SCO not only in the Eurasian space, but also in the global context," he said.
"The SCO has high economic potential because 40 per cent of the world population lives in its countries, which produce an aggregate GDP of more than USD 18 trillion, that is more than the 22 per cent of the global GDP and by 2025, it is expected to reach 38-40 per cent," he said.
The Tashkent meeting focused on the efficient use of the SCO's aggregate economic potential for its economic development, he said.
"In terms of security, the heads of the government noted that the sustainable development would be impossible without stability and peace. This means only collective efforts to fight conventional and new challenges can ensure political, economic, social and cultural development of the SCO members," he said.
The SCO remains committed to contributing to the best of its ability to countering the international terrorism, drug trafficking and resolving the conflict in Afghanistan "through a versatile mix of initiatives, including effective efforts by the SCO-Afghanistan contact group," he said.
In recent years, the SCO has made counter terrorism cooperation one of its main focus areas and created Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) which focussed on periodic counter terrorism exercises involving the member countries.
Mr Norov said a number of proposals, including the creation of the Council for the Development of Digital Economy and setting up of SCO Development Bank (SDB) and SCO Development Fund (SDF) were discussed.
He quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as saying that "together with all parties they were ready to create a centre to transfer the technologies of the SCO member states and next year China would launch the SCO International Youth Incubator programme."
He said parties would continue to coordinate common approaches to the development of financing mechanisms such as SDB and SDF.
India's membership was strongly pushed by Russia, while Pakistan's entry into the grouping was backed by China.