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India, Pakistan join China and Russia-led Security Bloc

Sovereignty, regional integrity must be respected: Modi on connectivity

Image Credit: Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting of heads of member states at the SCO summit in Astana.

Astana, Kazakhstan/New Delhi: Asian rivals India and Pakistan on Friday formally joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a security bloc spearheaded by China and Russia, despite bilateral tensions bubbling over Kashmir.

Leaders of the largely symbolic body — including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping — formally signed off on the subcontinent duo’s accession at the annual SCO summit in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif and Indian counterpart Narendra Modi reportedly shook hands and exchanged greetings late on Thursday at the opening of the SCO meeting, although New Delhi said that no formal bilateral meeting between the two was planned.

Modi on Friday hailed India’s accession as a “landmark moment in the journey of the SCO” and pledged India would play a “constructive and active role” in the organisation that also includes ex-Soviet states Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Sharif thanked the founding members for their “staunch support” for his country’s entry into the organisation, which he hailed as “an anchor of stability in the region”.

But both Moscow and Beijing expressed optimism that the two neighbours’ entry into the SCO could strengthen prospects for peace across the region.

Founded in 1996, the SCO is viewed as a vehicle for managing competing Chinese and Russia political, economic and military interests in the strategic region.

China is championing ambitious infrastructure projects, including land and sea links touted as a revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route.

Russia, in turn, has focused on broadening its Eurasian Economic Union integration project involving former Soviet allies.

Against the backdrop of India’s opposition to China’s ambitious ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative and with President Xi Jinping listening, Modi said that sovereignty and regional integrity should be respected on issues of connectivity.

On his part Sharif of Pakistan, which is part of the OBOR, hailed the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) as transforming the global economic landscape.

“For connectivity initiatives and for success and approval of the projects, sovereignty and regional integrity must be respected while inclusivity and sustainability are essential,” Modi said while addressing the SCO summit of which India became a member on Friday.

In his speech, Sharif said the SCO’s expansion was taking place at an “opportune time as a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) transforms the global economic landscape”.

“And in Pakistan we are diligently implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is the flagship of the BRI. What is more, these mega projects will benefit the entire SCO community.”

India has strongly objected to the OBOR project on the ground that the CPEC infringes on India’s sovereignty as it passes through Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Sharif said that Pakistan was attending this summit with the confidence that it would be able to change the world for better.

Sharing the round table with Sharif amid the ongoing India-Pakistan chill, Modi called for coordinated and strong efforts to fight terror and radicalisation, particularly on recruitment, training and financing.

“Terrorism is violation of human rights and basic human values. The fight against terrorism is an important part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Whether it is the issue of radicalisation, recruitment of terrorists, their training and financing, unless we take coordinated and strong efforts, it is not possible to find a solution,” Modi said.

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