Connectivity with neighbourhood India’s priority, says PM Modi at SCO summit
Noting that only 6% of foreign tourists in India come from Shanghai Cooperation Organisation countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says this can easily be doubled.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said India was supportive of connectivity projects that are inclusive, transparent and respect territorial sovereignty, indicating New Delhi’s unease with Beijing’s projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Speaking at the plenary session of the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organisaiton (SCO) in China’s Qingdao, Modi said India’s priority was connectivity with the neighbourhood and between the SCO countries in the region.
“We have again reached a stage where physical and digital connectivity is changing the definition of geography. Therefore, connectivity with our neighbourhood and in the SCO region is our priority,” he said, and emphasised the need for inclusiveness and transparency in connectivity projects to be successful.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of the flagship projects of the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a multi-billion dollar connectivity project that goes through PoK.
India has stayed away from the BRI — the only SCO country to be opposed to it — saying the CPEC violates its territorial integrity.
Security is our top priority, Modi said and floated an over-arching concept of security that the SCO could follow, calling it SECURE — S for security for citizens, E for economic development, C for connectivity in the region, U for unity, R for respect of sovereignty, E for environment protection.
Modi also spoke about terrorism in the region and mentioned how it had affected Afghanistan, an observer country in the SCO.
“Afghanistan is an unfortunate example of effect of terrorism,” he said and hoped that the steps towards peace taken by its President Ashraf Ghani will be respected by all in the region.
India, Modi said, will play its part as part of the SCO-Afghanistan contact group to restore peace in the country.
Promising full cooperation for the summit a year after India joined the bloc, the Prime Minister said, “We should together set a goal for the 25th SCO Summit. We should work together as a committee. India is committed to extend full cooperation to a successful outcome of the summit.”
It is for the first time an Indian prime minister is attending the SCO summit after India along with Pakistan became a full-fledged member of the grouping, jointly dominated by China and Russia.
Commenting on tourism in the SCO region, Modi said that India will organise a SCO food festival and a Buddhist festival to boost tourism from SCO countries.
“Only 6% of foreign tourists in India are from SCO countries; this can easily be doubled. Increasing awareness of our shared cultures can help boost this number. We will organise a SCO food festival and a Buddhist festival in India,” he said.
Besides Modi, other leaders attending the summit include Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain.
The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan became its members last year.
The SCO has eight member countries which represent around 42% of the world’s population and 20% of the global GDP.
(With agency inputs)