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Cross-border terror biggest challenge for SCO region: Venkaiah Naidu

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu. File photo   | Photo Credit: PTI

Cross-border terrorism is the biggest challenge for countries belonging to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), said Vice President Venkaiah Naidu while chairing a meeting of the SCO Heads of Government, comprising India, Russia, China, Pakistan and four Central Asian states. Without identifying Pakistan, he stated that India was concerned about state-sponsored terrorism. He spoke of the need for trade partners to be “trustworthy and transparent” and compliant with global rules, in criticism seemingly aimed at China’s trade practices.

Also read: India to host SCO Heads of Government meet; Modi, Imran to skip

“The most important challenge faced by us in the region is terrorism, particularly cross-border terrorism. Terrorism is truly the enemy of humanity. It is a scourge we need to collectively combat,” said Mr. Naidu, who stood in for Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the prime minister-level conference, attended by six Prime Ministers in the eight-nation grouping. “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 added.

Imran Khan skips meet

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan also decided to skip the meet hosted by India, sending his Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Andleeb Abbas, in his place, who also spoke about terrorism.  

“Condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including State terrorism inflicted upon people living under foreign occupation in disputed territories, the Parliamentary Secretary cautioned against the recent rise in extremist and racist incidents, inspired by neo-Nazism and Islamophobia,” Ms. Abbas said, in a veiled reference to the Kashmir dispute.  

The joint communique issued at the end of the Council meeting, however made no reference to terrorism. The SCO Council that focuses on trade and economic issues, said that all countries in the grouping committed to cooperation on the “prevention and control of infectious and non-infectious diseases, response to sanitary and epidemiological emergencies, elimination of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, countering the circulation of counterfeit medicines and the development of medical tourism.”

A joint communiqué issued at the end of the meeting that focused on trade and economic issues, committed to cooperation on the “prevention and control of infectious and non-infectious diseases, response to sanitary and epidemiological emergencies, elimination of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, countering the circulation of counterfeit medicines and the development of medical tourism.”

Also read: Virtual exhibition on shared Buddhist heritage of SCO countries launched

Speaking at some length about the impact of the pandemic, Mr. Naidu said a “sustainable” economic recovery depended on more open trading practices and a compliance with “multilateral rules of trade”. He called for reform of global institutions, including the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Mr. Naidu pointed out that more than 60 per cent of the vaccines for global immunisation programme were being manufactured in India, while at least three of 30 indigenously made vaccines were in advanced stages of development. “This global vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all the countries in fighting this crisis”, he added.

China’s OBOR/BRI initiative

With the exception of India, all other SCO members, including Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Russia and Tajikistan expressed their support for China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative (OBOR/BRI), and the “joint implementation” of projects with the Eurasian Economic Union, in the joint communiqué. India refused to join the BRI in 2017, in protest over Chinese projects through Pakistan occupied Kashmir, and lack of “transparency and sustainability” in the initiative.

When asked if strained relations with Pakistan and China had cast a shadow over the SCO Heads of Government council meeting, officials said bilateral issues were not raised at the meeting.

“The SCO was created as a regional organisation to tackle peace and security, to tackle the challenges of terrorism, extremism and separatism, and to promote trade and cooperation and cultural partnerships,” said Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs, while briefing the media. “That is why Article 2 of the SCO charter specifically prohibits bilateral issues from being raised, because it only serves to vitiate the atmosphere”.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 11:14:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/most-important-challenge-facing-region-is-terrorism-india-at-sco/article33212773.ece

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