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Sushma Swaraj slams terror, raises concerns over connectivity projects at China meet

Although the external affairs minister did not explicitly mention the Belt and Road Initiative at the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting in Beijing, she indicated some concerns that India has over what could be considered as a unilateral connectivity project launched by China.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2018 16:58 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Sushma Swaraj,Xi Jinping,India-China ties
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj (left) with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. (AP Photo)

India termed terrorism as a challenge to “life, peace and basic human rights” on Tuesday, barely three days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s informal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan.

“There are a number of challenges being faced by the world today, the foremost being the threat of global terrorism and the imminent need to build a strong security architecture to combat it. Terrorism is an enemy of basic human rights: of life, peace and prosperity,” external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers’ meet in Beijing.

Swaraj also spoke out against entities that aid terrorism, but stopped short of naming any country. “We strongly believe that our fight against terrorism should not only seek to eliminate terrorists but also identify and take strong measures against states that encourage, support and finance terrorism or provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups,” she added.

Swaraj was speaking at the SCO foreign ministers’ meet in Beijing for the first time after India and Pakistan became full members of the China and Russia-led bloc. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and his Pakistani counterpart, Khawaja Asif, were among the dignitaries present.

She also pressed for an urgent resolution to establish the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism proposed by India over two decades ago in the United Nations. “We are determined to consistently strengthen cooperation within the SCO framework for comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security,” Swaraj added.

Swaraj brought up the issue of “connectivity” projects within SCO countries during the course of her address. Although she did not explicitly mention the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), she indicated some concerns that India has over what could be considered as a unilateral connectivity project launched by China. “Connectivity with SCO countries is India’s priority. We want connectivity to pave the way for cooperation and trust between our societies. For this, respect for sovereignty is essential. Inclusivity, transparency and sustainability are imperative,” she said.

India has refused to be a part of the BRI due to sovereignty concerns. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, one of the flagship projects of the initiative, passes through PoK.

Swaraj went on to list a number of international connectivity projects that India was a part of, including the International North-South Transport Corridor, the Chabahar Port Development, the Ashgabat Agreement, the India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway Project and the Bangladesh-Butan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Initiative.

The minister reiterated New Delhi’s stand on globalisation, and its role in international trade. “India is committed to working with the SCO to strengthen our economic and investment ties. We believe that economic globalisation should be more open, inclusive, equitable and balanced for mutual benefits. Protectionism in all forms should be rejected, and efforts must be made to discipline measures that constitute barriers to trade,” she said.

First Published: Apr 24, 2018 10:02 IST