India hosted scholars and experts from a number of nations under the banner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The conference, held from 14–15 March, highlighted India’s past, present, and future role as a home for Buddhist cultural exchange.
SCO with members with delegates present included Bahrain, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and the United Arab Emirates.
“Cross-cultural linkages between central Asian and Southeast Asian nations need to be revived, and the spiritual artery of Buddhism remains in India,” an official told reporters at the conference. “And the effort is [underway for] the revival of Buddhist culture which the SCO can give momentum [to] given the common linkages despite the divergences. (The Hindu)
The two-day conference was organized by India’s Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of External Affairs, and the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), as a grantee body of the Ministry of Culture.
“The aim of the conference is 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 IBC said in a statement. (The Hindu)
Another conference official noted that Buddhism could be used to build a common cultural line between all SCO countries.
Dr. A. Imran Shauket, advisor to the Pakistan Tourism Coordination Board and a promoter of Pakistan’s Buddhist heritage, spoke to the media during the conference. “This session is just one very clear example of the wonderful role that India is actually playing . . . I am very, very impressed,” he said. “I am looking forward to India, Pakistan, and other countries working collectively.” (YouTube)
Asked about the role of Buddhism in the process, Dr. Shauket replied: “Obviously, this Buddhist civilization, if we were 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.” (YouTube)
Pakistan’s Swat Valley was once a hub of Buddhist society, as traders and Buddhist missionaries traveled from India to Central Asia along the Silk Road. Today, the valley is a site of great interest to archaeologists, with several hundred Buddhist monasteries yet to be discovered and explored.
Dr. Shauket noted that the Peshawar Museum in Pakistan was home to numerous important Buddhist artifacts, including the remnants of several written scripts in both the Sharda and Pali languages. He extended an invitation to Indian scholars, saying: “The doors were open to Indian scholars to study these and decode them, as well as visit Buddhist sites in Pakistan.” (The Hindu)
India’s Union Minister, G. Kishan Reddy, expressed hope that soon the entire world would receive the Buddha’s message.
Chinese researcher Dr. Shengliang Zhao spoke about historical connections between China and India. Speaking through a translator, he noted: “India and China, they celebrate a huge and historic history. This is what makes India and China closer to each other. And this conference is a huge message of India and China coming together in all aspects, whether it’s culturally or peaceful, so they will be moving ahead with this peaceful heritage together.” (YouTube)
Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Meenakashi Lekhi suggested that Buddhism represented the one single thought and philosophy that held the SCO countries together: “When we look at the life of Buddha, Buddha was born here and his first sermon to his last breath everything happened in India,” Lekhi said. (Devdiscourse)
“This particular thought traveled far and wide, and SCO countries are bound by one single thought and philosophy which is Buddhism. India is the center in that sense from where the thought spread all across,” Lekhi observed. “And it’s time to connect with everyone. We are similar people and our present history has a history which predates all that is happening. And it’s time to go back to the Buddhist thought, cooperate and work together on the principle of non-violence.” (Devdiscourse)
Scholars from SCO countries discuss ways to revive common Buddhist lineage (The Hindu)
“India playing wonderful role…” Pak delegation at SCO conference on ‘Shared Buddhist Heritage’ (YouTube)
History of India and China brings both countries closer to each other: Chinese Researcher (YouTube)
SCO countries bound by one single thought and philosphy which is Buddhism: Meenakashi Lekhi (Devdiscourse)
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Pursuing Eurasian Regional Trade Alliances (Silk Road Briefing)
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