Bishkek: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday emphasised the significance of the 'centrality' of interests of Central Asian countries in overcoming the global challenges and called for the 'closer cooperation' within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries.

"Today when the world is facing challenges, looming economic recession, broken supply chains, food and energy insecurity this calls for closer cooperation with the SCO, in this context, the centrality of the interests of Central Asian States plays a key role," he said.

Addressing the SCO Heads of Government meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgystan, Jaishankar noted the overwhelming debts on the Global South from 'opaque' initiatives and said that the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor and International North-South Transport Corridor will bring economic stability to the region.

He added, "We should bear in mind that the Global South should not be saddled with unviable debt arising from opaque initiatives. I am confident that the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor and the International North-South Transport Corridor could become enablers in bringing economic prosperity to the region."

Jaishankar who was speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the meeting said further, "India is keen to partner with Member States for sustainable, mutually beneficial and financially viable solutions. As we strive to improve trade within the region, we need robust connectivity and infrastructure. India has accorded utmost priority to these domains in its own developmental journey, at the same time connectivity initiatives should always respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries."

The External Affairs Minister earlier tweeted a video of the opening ceremony that featured a Hindi song. "And as the SCO meet in Bishkek starts..." posted on X.

Jaishankar arrived in Bishkek on Wednesday for the 22nd Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of Government (CHG) held under the chairmanship of Kyrgyzstan.

"Thank Deputy FM Moldogaziev for the warm reception. Look forward to productive exchanges at the SCO; meeting Kyrgyz leadership and taking forward our bilateral agenda," he added.

The external affairs minister also called on President Sadyr Zhaparov of the Kyrgyz Republic.

"Delighted to call on President Sadyr Zhaparov of Kyrgyz Republic.Conveyed the personal greetings of PM @narendramodi. Discussed cooperation in banking, energy, health and pharma, defense, agriculture and investments. Conveyed India's support for the successful Kyrgyz Presidency of SCO Council of Heads of Government," Jaishankar posted.

Jaishankar also met his counterpart from Kyrgyzstan Zheenbek Kulubaev and discussed a range of issues.

"Good to see my old friend FM Zheenbek Kulubaev in Bishkek. Spoke about strengthening India-Kyrgyz cooperation in the fields of trade and economy, development projects, health and education. Also exchanged views on Afghanistan, West Asia and connectivity," Jaishankar posted on X.

The October 25-26 meeting in the Kyrgyz capital city of Bishkek will be attended by the heads of governments of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the Vice-President of Iran, and the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan.

"In Bishkek, the external affairs minister will also meet with his counterparts from other SCO member states and call on the country's top leadership," the MEA said.

SCO observer States including Belarus and Mongolia as well as guest states Turkmenistan also attended the meeting.

The CHG is the second-highest forum in SCO. It focuses primarily on the areas of economy, finance, commerce, and socio-economic cooperation. India held the SCO Leaders Summit this year on July 4 in a virtual format.