The city of Varanasi has been nominated as the first-ever SCO tourism and cultural capital during 2022-2023 at the 22nd meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Friday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the SCO summit, which is the first in-person meeting of the regional group in two years owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The nomination of Varanasi as the first ever SCO tourism and cultural capital will promote tourism, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between India and the SCO member countries. It also underlines India's ancient civilisational links with the member states of SCO, especially the Central Asian republics," the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

Under the framework of this major cultural outreach programme, a number of events will be hosted in Varanasi during 2022-23, for which guests will be invited from the SCO member states. These events are expected to attract Indologists, scholars, authors, musicians, artists, photo journalists, travel bloggers apart from the invited guests.

The regulations for nominating SCO tourism and cultural capital were adopted at the Dushanbe SCO Summit in 2021 with an objective to promote cooperation between the SCO member states in the field of culture and tourism.