SCO meet: India launches thinly veiled attack on Pakistan over terrorism

Updated on Nov 30, 2020 04:24 PM IST

Vice president M Venkaiah Naidu, who chaired the virtual meeting of the council, also indirectly criticised Pakistan for attempting to use SCO to raise bilateral matters and said this went against the grouping’s charter

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.(File photo)
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.(File photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent | Edited by Smriti Sinha

During a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) council of heads of government, India on Monday launched a thinly veiled attack on Pakistan for using terrorism as an instrument of state policy and called for collective efforts to combat the menace.

Vice president M Venkaiah Naidu, who chaired the virtual meeting of the council, also indirectly criticised Pakistan for attempting to use SCO to raise bilateral matters and said this went against the grouping’s charter, which safeguards the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states.

In his opening remarks, Naidu pointed to the importance of efforts to boost economic recovery amid the Covid-19 pandemic and took a tacit swipe at China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying trust alone determines sustainability of global trade and countries must demonstrate their compliance with rules of multilateral trade.

The council of heads of government is the second-highest body of SCO and is responsible for handling the grouping’s trade and economic agenda and approving its annual budget. This is the first time India is hosting a meeting of the body since it was admitted into the eight-member grouping in 2017.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan did not join the virtual meeting. Pakistan’s participation was at the lowest level – the country was represented by parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Andleeb Abbas – and Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were represented by their prime ministers.

Naidu said trade can flourish only in an environment of peace and security, and the most important challenge faced by countries in the region is terrorism, “particularly cross-border terrorism”. He described terrorism as “the enemy of humanity” that needs to be combated collectively.

“India condemns terrorism in all its manifestations. We remain concerned about threats emerging from ungoverned spaces and are particularly concerned about states that leverage terrorism as an instrument of state policy,” he said, without naming Pakistan.

“Such an approach is entirely against the spirit and ideas and the charter of the SCO. Elimination of this threat will help all of us realise our shared potential and create conditions for stable and secure economic growth and sustainable development.”

Naidu said SCO is key to cooperation based on universally recognised international norms, rule of law, openness and transparency and it is “unfortunate ...that there have been attempts to deliberately bring bilateral issues into SCO and blatantly violate the well-established principles and norms of the SCO charter safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of SCO member states”.

Pakistan has repeatedly sought to raise bilateral matters such as the Kashmir issue at multilateral forums and India had walked out of a virtual meeting of national security advisers of SCO in September after the Pakistani representative projected a map that inaccurately depicted the borders of the two countries.

Naidu said the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiative is aimed at building national economic strength, resilience and enhanced capacities so that the country can be a trusted partner. The initiative recognises the importance of reciprocity, transparency and fairness in trade and is central to collective efforts to overcome vulnerabilities exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

“Partners must be trustworthy and transparent. It is trust that determines the sustainability of our global trade and nations must demonstrate their compliance with rules of multilateral trade to remain a part of this system,” he said.

Naidu also highlighted India’s role in producing more than 60% of vaccines used for global immunisation programmes and said, “This global vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all the countries in fighting this crisis.”

He noted that the socio-political impact of Covid-19 had exposed the weaknesses of global institutions, including the WHO, which need to be revamped as part of a reformed multilateralism that reflects today’s realities and gives voice to all stakeholders.

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