Modi, Imran exchange pleasantries at SCO summit.
New Delhi/Bishkek: India and Pakistan traded veiled barbs at each other at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan on Friday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that “responsibility should be fixed on nations that inspire, support and finance terrorism” while his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan singled out “state terrorism against people under illegal occupation”, an oblique reference to Pakistani accusations against India on Kashmir. Sources however confirmed late on Friday evening that both Prime Ministers had “exchanged usual pleasantries in the leaders’ lounge”.
Meanwhile, in his address, the Pakistan Prime Minister also appeared keen on talks, saying that “peace and prosperity in south Asia will remain elusive until the main dynamic in south Asia is shifted from confrontation to cooperation”.
It may be recalled that India’s stand has been that it will not hold bilateral talks with Pakistan till Islamabad stops supporting cross-border terrorism.
The Bishkek Declaration issued after the summit condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and called on the international community to promote cooperation in combating the menace “without politicisation and double standards”. The SCO member-nations discussed the menace of terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan and global economic issues.
India was the only SCO member-nation to not endorse the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the declaration. The SCO is an eight-member Central Asian Grouping that comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. India and Pakistan became SCO members in 2017.
New Delhi has refused to join the BRI since the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) — is one of the flagship projects of the BRI. In his address predictably, Pakistan PM Imran Khan described the CPEC in glowing terms.
In his address at the SCO summit in the presence of leaders including Pakistan Prime Minister, Mr Modi said, “Last Sunday, during my visit to Sri Lanka, I went to St. Antony’s Church. There I saw the terrible face of terrorism that can happen anywhere and take the lives of innocents. All humanitarian forces should step out of their confines and tackle this menace.”
“Responsibility should be fixed on nations that inspire, support and finance terrorism. In order to wipe out terrorism, SCO member countries should use the full might of the SCO-RATS (regional anti-terrorist structure). In order to tackle terrorism, India calls for the convening of an international conference to discuss measures to tackle terrorism,” said Prime Minister Modi.
In his address, Pakistan PM Imran Khan said, “Growing intolerance and Islamophobia are threatening to accentuate fault-lines between religions. For its part, Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state terrorism against people under illegal occupation. We are among the few countries to have successfully turned the tide against
terrorism at a heavy cost both to our soldiers and population.”
Mr Khan added, “South Asia continues to be challenged by common enemies — poverty, illiteracy, disease and under-development. Political differences and unresolved disputes further compound this predicament.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency reported that during the bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the SCO summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Pakistani PM, Mr Xi said that China “supports Pakistan and India in improving their relations”.
Apart from the issue of terrorism, Mr Modi, in his address, also spoke about connectivity projects in which New Delhi is participating in, such as the development of Chabahar port in Iran. Coining an acronym for “Health” as various aspects of cooperation within the SCO, PM Modi said H stood for healthcare cooperation, E for economic cooperation, A for alternate energy, L for literature and culture, T for a terrorism-free society and H for humanitarian cooperation.
On the BRI, the Bishkek Declaration stated, “The Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan reaffirm their support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative and praise the results of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (Beijing, April 26).
They note the ongoing work to implement this initiative together, including the efforts to align the Eurasian Economic Union projects with those under the belt and road initiative.
Earlier, Mr Modi could not hold a bilateral meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the SCO summit here due to scheduling issues, official sources said.
According to a schedule put out by the external affairs ministry, Mr Modi was to meet Rouhani at 3.35 pm (local time). As the banquet for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders got extended, the two leaders could not meet, sources said.