Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Qingdao, China, on Saturday. (Twitter/@MEAIndia)
India on Sunday again said “no” to China’s Belt and Road project, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain merely shook hands on the final day of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Qingdao city.
India, which participated at the Chinese-led security bloc for the first time after being inducted into the grouping last year, did not figure in the list of rest of the member states endorsing Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative in the joint declaration.
Earlier in the day, Modi made it clear that New Delhi was all for connectivity projects but could not compromise its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
India strongly opposes Beijing’s multi-billion dollar project, which aims to connect Asia with Europe through a network of roads, ports and sea lanes.
New Delhi’s objection is to the key artery of the project – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which goes through the Kashmir held by Pakistan and claimed by India.
“We have again reached a stage where physical and digital connectivity is changing the definition of geography. Therefore, connectivity with our neighbourhood and in the SCO region is our priority,” Modi said.
“We welcome any new connectivity project, which is inclusive, sustainable and transparent, and respects a country’s sovereignty and regional integrity,” he said at one of the sessions at the Summit.
This is one of the contentious issues between India and China but both seem to have decided not to let it affect other aspects of bilateral ties.
Like India, Pakistan also became a member of the SCO in 2017 and attended the event for the first time.
“It was noted that the SCO had asserted itself as a unique, influential and authoritative regional organization whose potential had grown remarkably following the accession of India and Pakistan,” the 17-page Qingdao declaration said.
With the inclusion of India and Pakistan, the grouping has expanded into an 8-member bloc. China, Russia, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are SCO’s other members.
Modi, who had bilaterals with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders, just had a handshake with the Pakistan head of state. The ties between the two countries have plummeted following terror attacks at Indian Army bases and continuing separatist violence in Jammu and Kashmir for which New Delhi blames Islamabad.
Modi indirectly slammed Pakistan for fomenting trouble in Afghanistan. “All parties in the region should respect the sentiment with which (Afghan) President Ghani has taken courageous steps for peace,” Modi said at the restricted session of the summit on Sunday.
He said it was “our common responsibility to ensure causes that threaten Afghanistan’s sovereignty and security are not repeated”.
India and Afghanistan accuse Pakistan of plotting terror attacks in their countries.
The bloc vowed to fight terrorism.
“The SCO’s coordinated policy of waging an effective fight against challenges and threats to security remains unchanged. Practical interaction in this area will be facilitated by the adopted Programme of Cooperation between the SCO Member States in Opposing Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism for 2019-21.”
During the summit, Modi and Xi had a “substantive” meeting on Saturday. India struck major deals like export of rice and Indian pharmaceutical products to China.
The bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2020 was another important announcement by both sides.
The Kyrgyz Republic will take over the Presidency of the organization. The next meeting of the Council of SCO Heads of State will be held in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2019.