Modi delivers stern message to China at SCO summit; Says need to respect sovereignty, territorial integrity

·5-min read

New Delhi/Beijing, Nov 10 (PTI) Coming face-to-face with Chinese president Xi Jinping, albeit virtually, for the first time since the Sino-India border row began in early May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday delivered a stern message during his address at the SCO summit that there should be respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity among the nations.

In his remarks during the virtual summit, Modi also hit out at those making repeated attempts to 'unnecessarily' bring bilateral issues to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in violation of the bloc's foundational principles, in an oblique reference to Pakistan raising the Kashmir issue in the past meetings of the eight-nation grouping.

'India believes that to enhance connectivity, it is important that we move forward by following the core principle of respecting each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity,' Modi said while referring to New Delhi's involvement in International North South Corridor project, development of the Chabahar port and Ashgabat agreement.

The Prime Minister's remarks came in the backdrop of the Sino-India border row in eastern Ladakh and China's contentious Belt and Road connectivity project, as also Pakistan's support to cross-border terrorism against India.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top leaders of the influential grouping attended the summit.

On his part, Xi, without referring to any country or specific issue, said members of the SCO should deepen mutual trust and resolve disputes and differences through dialogue and consultations.

The Chinese president said that history has proved, and will continue to prove that good, neighbourly friendship will go beyond a beggar-thy-neighbour approach, mutually beneficial cooperation will take over the zero-sum game and multilateralism will prevail over unilateralism.

'We need to deepen solidarity and mutual trust and resolve disputes and differences through dialogue and consultations,' Xi said.

In his address, Khan opposed 'illegal and unilateral' actions by any country to change the status of disputed regions in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and even called for the implementation of the UN resolutions to resolve outstanding issues and create an environment for peace and stability. The Pakistan prime minister did not name any country.

In his address, Modi also emphasised on the need to follow the core principles of the SCO.

'India has always been resolute in working in sync with principles laid out in the SCO charter. But it is unfortunate that there have been repeated efforts to unnecessarily bring bilateral issues in the SCO agenda which is in violation of the SCO spirit,' he said.

In mid-September, India's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval walked out of a virtual meeting of top security officials of the SCO member states after the Pakistani representative projected a map that inaccurately depicted Kashmir.

Prime Minister Modi reiterated also India’s firm belief in regional peace, security and prosperity and noted that it is raising voice against terrorism, smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs and money-laundering.

Referring to COVID-19, he said India will use its capacity in production and distribution of vaccines to help the entire humanity in fighting the pandemic, and noted that in this difficult time also, Indian pharma industry had sent essential medicines to over 150 countries.

'India strongly believes that a combination of economic multilateralism and national capacity building can help the countries including in the SCO region recover from the economic losses caused by the pandemic,' Modi said.

'I am confident that a self-reliant India will prove to be a force multiplier for the world economy and will trigger a momentum for economic development of the SCO countries,' he said.

Highlighting the imperative of a reformed multilateralism to meet the expectations of a world suffering from the social and financial after-effects of the pandemic, Modi said India, as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, beginning from 1 January 2021, will focus on the theme of ‘reformed multilateralism’ to bring about desirable changes in global governance.

The Prime Minister also talked about India hosting a summit of the council of heads of government of the SCO on November 30 in the virtual format, and said an elaborate agenda is being prepared focussing on economic issues.

India has also proposed setting up working groups on innovation, start-up and traditional medicines, he said.

On UN reforms, he said though it completed 75 years of existence and achieved many successes, the main goal of the global body is still incomplete.

Asserting that India has strong cultural and historical connect with the SCO region, Modi reiterated the government's firm commitment towards strengthening connectivity in the region with initiatives like International North-South Transport Corridor, Chabahar Port and Ashgabat agreement.

The International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode transport project for moving freight among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.

Ashgabat agreement is a transport agreement among several Gulf and Central Asian countries which is aimed at creating a transit corridor to spur trade and investment. India has been supporting the project.

Modi also extended full support to observe the 20th anniversary of SCO in 2021 as the 'SCO Year of Culture”.

He also spoke about India’s own initiatives to hold the first SCO exhibition on shared Buddhist heritage to be organised by the National Museum of India, SCO Food Festival in India next year and the translation of 10 regional language literary works into Russian and Chinese, the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.

The Prime Minister congratulated President Emomali Rahmon of the Republic of Tajikistan for assuming the chairmanship of SCO next year and assured full cooperation of India, it added. PTI MPB/KJV/SH PYK PYK