Despite being in the same room, Foreign ministers of India and Pakistan did not meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Tajikistan capital Dushanbe. This was the second time in a fortnight when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were attending a multilateral meeting.
Both were in New York on September 27 at the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting, but Swaraj had walked out of the meeting after delivering her speech, citing other commitments. India had last month cancelled a scheduled meeting in New York, accusing Pakistan of terrorist attacks on security personnel and glorification of terrorists. Pakistan denied the charges, saying that they were mere excuses given by Delhi, and had blamed the Indian leadership for vacillating on the bilateral meeting.
At Tajikistan’s capital to attend the two-day conclave of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) Council of Heads of Government (CHG), Swaraj said on Friday: “Terrorism remains the most overwhelming threat to our common goals of development and prosperity.”
As the footprint of terrorism expands, governments must assume their national responsibility and cooperate with each other, she said in the presence of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi.
In an apparent reference to the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Swaraj said all connectivity initiatives must be based on the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, consultations, good governance, transparency, viability and sustainability.
India has opposed the CPEC projects and protested to China as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
India has actively supported the SCO Qingdao Summit Leaders’ “Appeal to Youth” against radicalisation of youth, she said and congratulated all her colleagues on the successful completion of the ‘SCO Peace Mission 2018’. It was the first time India participated in these counter-terrorism exercises.
Swaraj said India stands committed to a peace process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled that can help Afghanistan emerge as a peaceful, secure, stable, inclusive and economically vibrant nation. “In this context, we welcome the signing of the Protocol of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group on the sidelines of the Qingdao Summit. We would be happy to co-host with Afghanistan, the next meeting of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group in India,” she said.
It is the second CHG meeting since India became a full member of the SCO in June 2017. India was an observer at the SCO since 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.
India became a full member of the grouping last year and New Delhi’s entry into it is expected to increase the bloc’s heft in regional geo-politics and trade negotiations besides giving it a pan-Asian hue. Along with India, Pakistan was also granted membership of the SCO last year.
The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The bloc currently has eight member countries which represent around 42 per cent of the world’s population and 20 per cent of the global GDP.