India’s civilisational connect with countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was in focus at a first of its kind international conference on “Shared Buddhist Heritage” that began in New Delhi on Tuesday and saw participation from Pakistan and China among others.
Being held under India’s leadership of the SCO, the two-day long event brought together Central Asian, East Asian, South Asian and Arab countries on a common platform and aims to re-establish trans-cultural links, seek out commonalities between Buddhist art of Central Asia, art styles, archaeological sites and antiquity in various museums’ collections of the SCO countries.
The intergovernmental organisation SCO, founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001 currently comprises of eight member states -China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, four observer states -Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia and six “Dialogue Partners” -Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey. The eight member countries of SCO represent around 42 per cent of the world population and 25 per cent of the global GDP.
According to A Imran Shauket, Advisor to Pakistan Tourism Coordination Board, the conference presented a clear example of the role India was playing in bringing together countries with shared Buddhist heritage together. “This session is just one very clear example of the wonderful role that India is actually playing in bringing all the countries of SCO, or let’s say all the countries with the Buddhist heritage together,” Shauket said.
Shauket who previously served as the focal person for Pakistan’s minister of archaeology and tourism, said: “I am very impressed on how hospitable India has been, how they’re bringing all the countries together. And India will always have a big role because, you know, Buddha was born in India, Buddhism originated from here.” He said he looks forward to India, Pakistan and other countries working collectively to preserve, promote the common Buddhist heritage of countries.
“This Buddhist civilization, if we want to look at it, is actually the first binding glue that brings all these countries and the cultures together. It would be very nice to be able to go back in history and forget the differences and go back to how we were all connected then and how we can find the commonalities rather than the differences between all of our different cultures. And remember, at one time we were the same culture and we were the same people,” Shauket said.
The Advisor to Pakistan Tourism Coordination Board said that Pakistan is starting to do more and more on the Buddhist side also. He said that Pakistan is trying to preserve and promote the culture, all the heritages, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist. Shengliang Zhao, a researcher from China’s Dunhuang Research Academy and a participant at the conference stated that the event offered a huge opportunity for India and China to celebrate history.
“This is what makes India and China more close to each other. This time this conference gives a huge message of india and China coming together in all aspects culturally … peacefully. We will be moving ahead with this peaceful heritage further,” Zhao said in his remarks that were translated. The two-day long conference was earlier today inagurated by Union Minister of Culture G Kishan Reddy in the presence of Union minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi and Minister of State for Culture, Arjun Ram Meghwal at Vigyan Bhawan in the national capital. G Kishan Reddy honoured the participating delegates from SCO member countries.
India is holding the leadership of SCO for a period of one year, from September 17, 2022 till September 2023. The conference has brought together Central Asian, East Asian, South Asian and Arab countries on a common platform to discuss “Shared Buddhist Heritage”. More than 15 scholars and delegates from China’s Dunhuang Research Academy, Kyrgyzstan’s Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnology, Russia’s State Museum of the History of Religion, Tajikistan’s National Museum of Antiquities, Belarusian State University and Myanmar’s International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, etc will be presenting research papers on topic during the 2-day event.
The programme is being organized by the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of External Affairs and the International Buddhist Confederation, as a grantee body of the Ministry of Culture. A number of Indian scholars of Buddhism are also participating in the event. The aim of the Conference is to re-establish trans-cultural links and seek out commonalities, between Buddhist art of Central Asia, art styles, archaeological sites and antiquity in various museums’ collections of the SCO countries.