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India only SCO member to oppose China’s BRI | India News

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BEIJING: China’s hope of winning unanimous support for its Belt and Road Initiative from members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation remained unfulfilled with India emerging as a silent dissenter after two days of deliberations attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India was the only member state which did not endorse the BRI programme. This was revealed in the 17-page Qingdao Declaration, which named all member states, except one, as “reiterating support for China’s BRI” project. All other members — Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, besides China — backed it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of the need to “respect sovereignty” in dealing with infrastructure projects, clearly signaling the government’s objection to a portion of the BRI, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

India “welcomes new connectivity projects that are inclusive, sustainable, transparent, and those that respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations”, he said.

He reiterated that “connectivity with SCO and neighbours is a priority for India”. What Beijing got out of the summit was India’s participation in its effort to rally support for China in the trade dispute with the Trump administration. This is a lot more important to China than other issues as it battles to counter the possibility of a trade war being triggered by Washington.

The SCO expressed its support for an “open, inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory and rulesbased multilateral trading regime” while opposing trade protectionism of any form, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a joint press conference.

Modi held a crucial meeting on Saturday with the Chinese President in which the two sides expressed willingness to move beyond their differences on issues like the border dispute and cooperate in a range of other areas. A significant move was the decision on a joint India-China project for peace in Afghanistan. This will enable India to play a bigger role in Afghanistan and, to that extent, reduce Beijing’s reliance on Pakistan, observers said. Speaking at the SCO summit on Sunday, Modi said Afghanistan was “an unfortunate example” of terrorism.

The PM did not specifically mention Pakistan but the message was clear that both India and Afghanistan see a Pakistani hand in destabilising the mountainous country. “All parties in the region should respect the sentiment with which (Afghan) President Ghani has taken courageous steps for peace,” the PM said. It is the region’s “common responsibility to ensure causes that threaten Afghanistan’s sovereignty and security will not be repeated”, he added.

Modi shook hands with the Pakistan president during the summit but there was no separate bilateral meeting between them. The Prime Minister summed up India’s approach to the region, and to the SCO, with his latest acronym, “SECURE”. “S stands for security of our citizens, E stand for economic development for all, C is connecting the region, U is uniting our people, R is respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and E is for environment protection,” Modi said.

Updated: June 11, 2018 — 3:25 am

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