With Chinese President Xi Jinping listening in, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that connectivity projects in the region should respect “territorial integrity and sovereignty”, and it is essential to maintain “inclusivity and sustainability”.
“Connectivity with SCO countries is India’s priority, and we totally support it. We want connectivity to enhance the cooperation between our young generation and societies. For this, success and approval of the connectivity initiatives and proposals, sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected, and inclusivity and sustainability is essential,” said Modi, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres looked on.
With Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz listening to his speech, Modi said: “Terrorism is one of the biggest violators of human rights and values. So, coordination between SCO countries is an important part of the fight against terrorism and extremism. I have full faith that India’s cooperation with SCO will give a new direction and energy in the fight against terrorism.” He also emphasised the need for coordinated efforts to fight terrorism, including radicalisation, recruitment, training and financing of terrorists.
With Modi’s speech, delivered in Hindi at the Palace of Independence where the Shanghai Cooperation Summit is being held, India sent a strong message to both countries on the hot-button issues confronting the relationships with the two neighbours.
While India’s statement on connectivity targeted the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor being a part of the One-Belt One Road, the comments on terrorism were aimed at Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism.
Modi’s statements came hours after he met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Beijing Palace hotel here, where the Chinese leader and his delegation was staying.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said the 40-minute meeting was “very positive and cordial”. This was a markedly different posturing from their last meeting in Goa, where the two leaders had met on the margins of the BRICS summit — when all the hot-button issues were raised, ranging from NSG to Masood Azhar.
“There was also an understanding that where we have differences, differences should not become disputes. In fact, if handled well, (it) can even become opportunity,” he said, indicating India’s softening stand and efforts to bring down the temperature in its relationship with China.
Such was the optics, that Xi even brought a lighter note in the discussion where he praised the Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal as being popular in China — he said he had watched the film and emphasised on cultural cooperation.
Indicating that the two leaders talked about closing ranks, in the face of an unpredictable US administration under President Donald Trump, Jaishankar said, “The broad thrust was that at a time of global uncertainty, India-China relations are a factor of stability. As the world becomes more multipolar, it is important for India and China to work together closely.”
He said a number of issues came up for discussion, including economic cooperation, investment, connectivity, establishment of industrial parks, cooperation in railways, security and defence exchanges, counter-terrorism. They also talked about the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, and parliamentary and youth exchanges between the two sides.
However, the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing said Xi told Modi that “China and India, as two major countries, should focus more on cooperation, and work alongside to provide assistance with each other’s development goals.” Xi also called for both sides to “properly address sensitive and major issues,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.
Meanwhile, addressing the SCO summit, Sharif said: “The SCO goals resonate with Pakistan’s national ethos, and so do the core values of the Shanghai spirit and the SCO charter with our own quest for a peaceful neighbourhood.”
Welcoming Xi’s proposal on a five-year treaty for ‘good neighbourliness’ among SCO members, Sharif said, “As leaders, we should leave a legacy of peace and amity for our future generations, not a toxic harvest of conflict and animosity. Instead of talking about counter-weights and containment, let us create shared spaces for all.”
While Pakistan’s media reported another round of handshake between Modi and Sharif, even circulating a purported photograph, there was no official confirmation from the Indian side. They met on Thursday evening and exchanged pleasantries before a concert for the visiting leaders. Modi asked Sharif about his health and about his mother and family, whom he he had met in Lahore more than 17 months ago.
The summit concluded with India and Pakistan’s admission as members of the SCO.