In a veiled criticism of Pakistan, India today said that repeated attempts to deliberately bring bilateral issues into the SCO platform violate the well-established principles of the grouping and such counter-productive acts should be “condemned”.
External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar, in a virtual address at a meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government, also asserted that any serious connectivity initiative must be transparent and conform to the most basic principle of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The comments are seen as an indirect reference to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India has been severely critical of the BRI as the USD 50 billion corridor passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
“India considers the SCO as an important regional group to promote cooperation in various fields based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality,” Dr Jaishankar said.
“It is unfortunate to note that there have been repeated attempts to deliberately bring bilateral issues into SCO. This violates the well-established principles and norms of SCO charter,” he said.
Dr Jaishankar further said: “Such acts are counterproductive to the spirit of consensus and cooperation that define this organisation and should be condemned.”
Pakistan attempted to raise the Kashmir issue at SCO meetings on multiple occasions in the last few years.
In September last year, 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.
The member states of the SCO are Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
In his address, Dr Jaishankar also said that India has been taking steps to operationalise the Chabahar port in Iran to provide a secure and commercially viable access to the sea for Central Asian countries.
He said India has proposed to include the Chabahar port in the framework of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) while reaffirming New Delhi’s commitment to “cooperate, plan, invest and build physical and digital connectivity in the SCO region”.
The 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.
Talking about economic prosperity, he said India believes that greater connectivity is an economic force-multiplier that has acquired greater salience in the post-Covid era.
“However, any serious connectivity initiative must be consultative, transparent and participatory. It must conform to the most basic principle of international law – respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Dr Jaishankar added.
Showcasing India as an “emerging economic force” at the global level, he said the country”s agile response in fighting the COVID-19 and ensuring economic stability has been noteworthy despite the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.
He said notwithstanding the pandemic, India attracted record FDI inflows of USD 77 billion in 2020-21 and another USD 22 billion in the first three months of this year.
“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast a 9.5 per cent growth in the Indian economy in 2021. Our trade performance has also been strong, growing by more than 20 per cent this year,” he said.
He said the WIPO has ranked India number one in the Global Innovation Index 2021 in the Central and South Asian region.
“Indian startups have so far created 65 unicorns, out of which 28 unicorns were added during 2021 alone. We stand ready to share our experience with the other SCO Member States through our initiative to set up a Special Working Group on Startups and Innovation,” he added.
Dr Jaishankar also drew attention to the challenges emanating from the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and outlined India’s initiatives to mitigate them.
He also spoke on the need for reformed and invigorated multilateralism to reflect current realities.
“The socio-political impact of COVID-19 is far from over and has exposed the weakness of global institutions. This is the time to bring in much-needed reforms to our global institutions, including the WHO, and rework our development strategies to face a post-COVID-19 world,” he said.
For this, he said there is a need for a reformed and reinvigorated multilateralism that reflects today’s realities, which gives voice to all stakeholders, addresses contemporary challenges and puts human beings at the centre of policies.
Referring to the recent meeting of COP 26 in Glasgow, he said it has sharpened the realisation that for many developing countries, climate change remains the biggest existential threat.
“As we move towards practical implementation of the trade and economic agenda of SCO, we must, simultaneously, pay heed to the climate change impact of our joint activities,” he said.
The External Affairs minister said the world today acknowledges that India is among the few large economies that have delivered in letter and spirit on the Paris Agreement.
“A developing country like India that is working to lift millions out of poverty has not spared any effort to fulfil its global environment obligations,” he said.
“In parallel, we have surged ahead in developing renewables and today India ranks 4th in the world in installed renewable energy capacity. India”s non-fossil fuel energy has increased by more than 25% in the last 7 years and now it has reached 40 per cent of our energy mix,” he added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)