Press Trust of india

Varanasi to be first ‘Cultural and Tourism Capital’ of SCO: Secretary General Zhang Ming

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Beijing: The holy city of Varanasi showcasing India’s culture and traditions over the ages will be declared the first “Cultural and Tourism Capital” of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Secretary General of the bloc Zhang Ming said here on Friday.

The Beijing-headquartered Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is an eight-member economic and security alliance comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.

Zhang said Varanasi will become the “Cultural and Tourism Capital” of the SCO for 2022-23 under a new rotating initiative by the eight-member organisation to promote people-to-people contacts and tourism among the member states.

“We are about to implement a rotating mechanism. We will rotate the title of Cultural and Tourism Capital among the member states,” he said, adding that Varanasi, India’s ancient city, will be the first to be granted the title.

Under this 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, Zhang told the media here.

He highlighted the organisation’s new initiatives ahead of this year’s Heads of the State summit of the SCO scheduled to be held at Samarkand in Uzbekistan on 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.

Zhang, a senior Chinese diplomat, said the SCO member states were considering several initiatives to promote tourism to enhance people-to-people contacts once the COVID travel restrictions ease.

Kazakhstan has announced a visa-free policy for tourists from India and other countries, he said, adding that the SCO members have rich resources with respect to tourism which should be explored.

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