Decisive actions key to counter terror: PM

The Asian Age.  | Sridhar Kumaraswami

India, All India

Basic tenets of SCO must be respected, says Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets as he addresses at SCO Summit via video conferencing, Tuesday, July 4, 2023. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: In a veiled criticism of Pakistan for cross-border terrorism and China for its double standards on the matter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) should not hesitate to criticise such nations. Chairing the 23rd meeting of the SCO council summit in virtual mode, the PM said that "decisive action" is required to deal with terrorism and terror financing.

Apart from the leaders of the other member nations, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also addressed the summit. The President of Iran, which became the ninth full-fledged member of the SCO, Ebrahim Raisi, also participated in the summit.

During his address, in another veiled jibe at the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), whose flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Mr Modi said that while "strong connectivity is crucial for the progress of any region (and) better connectivity not only enhances mutual trade but also fosters mutual trust, it is essential to uphold the basic principles of the SCO charter, particularly respecting the sovereignty and regional integrity of the Member States."

India has refused to join the BRI. Reiterating India’s position, Mr Modi instead endorsed the International North-South Transport Corridor, which he said "can serve as a secure and efficient route for landlocked countries in Central Asia to access the Indian Ocean". He added that "following Iran's membership in the SCO, we can work towards maximising the utilisation of the (Iranian) Chabahar Port."

Raising the issue of food, fertiliser and energy security for the Global South (developing nations), the PM said that "in a world surrounded by conflicts, tensions and pandemics, food, fuel, and fertiliser crises are a significant challenge for all nations’ and that "we should collectively ponder upon whether we are capable, as an organisation, of fulfilling the aspirations and expectations of our people."

The Prime Minister said that India supports proposals for reforms and modernisation within the SCO. He said: "The SCO can also become an important voice for reforms in global institutions, including the UN."

On the situation in Afghanistan, Mr Modi said, “It is important that Afghanistan's territory is not used to spread instability in neighbouring countries or to encourage extremist ideologies.”

He added: “The situation in Afghanistan has directly impacted the security of all of us. India's concerns and expectations regarding Afghanistan are similar to those of most of the SCO countries. We must come together to strive for the well-being of the people of Afghanistan…”

Later, in a special media briefing, foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said that the decision announced about a month ago by India to conduct the summit in virtual mode "did not dilute the objectives".

In response to India’s veiled barb against Pakistan on terrorism, Pakistan PM sought to hit back, albeit in a veiled manner. He said: "Any temptation to use it as a cudgel for diplomatic point scoring must be eschewed. Instead of cherry-picking for narrow political gains, terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state terrorism, must be condemned in clear and unambiguous terms."

Mr Sharif also tried to rake up the Kashmir issue obliquely without naming it and pushing Islamabad’s narrative.

In his remarks, the Russian President blasted the West and accused it of "instigating Ukraine with weapons against Donbass (region)" and promoting neo-Nazi ideology, as well as "hybrid warfare" against Russia with economic sanctions.

"The Russian people are more consolidated than ever. The unity and high responsibility for the fate of the country were clearly demonstrated by the Russian political circles and the whole of society in uniting against the attempted armed rebellion," the Russian President said.

Mr Putin also spoke about the increasing trade between Russia and China in Roubles and Yuan (their respective national currencies).

The Chinese President spoke about the benefits of the (China-led) BRI project and also the need to oppose global "hegemony" in what is being seen as a reference to the West.

The main joint statement released later in the evening reiterated that all SCO nations except India supported the BRI. It said: "Reaffirming their support for China's "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI) initiative, the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Russian Federation, Republic of Tajikistan and Republic of Uzbekistan note the ongoing work to jointly implement this project, including efforts to link the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union and BRI."

The joint statement said: "Threats and challenges are becoming more and more complex, destructive and dangerous; existing conflicts are aggravating and new conflicts are emerging… The member states confirm their commitment to the formation of a more representative, democratic, just and multipolar world order based on the universally recognised principles of international law, with a central coordinating role for the UN."

On terrorism, the joint statement said: "The member states are determined to continue taking active measures to eliminate the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, to disrupt the terror financing channels, to suppress recruitment activities and cross-border movement of terrorists, to counter extremism and radicalization of youth, the dissemination of terrorist ideology, as well as to eliminate ‘sleeper cells’ and places used as terrorist safe havens."

On the issue of economic sanctions seen as significant in the context of sanctions imposed by the West on Russia due to the Ukraine conflict, a joint statement issued by the SCO said that "unilateral application of economic sanctions other than those approved by the UN Security Council are incompatible with the principles of international law and has a negative impact on third countries and international economic relations".

The joint statement also mentioned a "roadmap for a gradual increase in the share of national currencies in mutual settlements by the interested member states".

The member states called for greater effectiveness of the World Trade Organization as a key platform for discussing the international trade agenda and adopting the regulations of the multilateral trading system.