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NEW DELHI : The recent chain of events in Afghanistan has underlined the challenge posed by radicalization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, urging the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to develop a common template to fight the problem.

In his speech, delivered via video link to the SCO meet hosted by Tajikistan, Modi said radicalization posed a significant challenge to peace and security and exacerbated the region’s trust deficit.

The SCO comprises eight members: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan became permanent members in 2017. The group was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and is viewed as a counterweight to the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO.

During the virtual address, Modi also called for strengthening connectivity between the landlocked Central Asia and India, making a strong case for greater trade. The prime minister said that Central Asian countries could unlock their vast economic potential by connecting with India through Iran’s Chabahar port.

Modi, however, added the caveat that all connectivity initiatives should be consultative, transparent and implemented with due respect to the territorial integrity of all countries. The warning has to be seen against the backdrop of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that Beijing has been using to increase its influence in Central Asia and other parts of the world. One strand of the BRI, the China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor or CPEC, runs through the portion of Kashmir under Pakistani control. India views this as a violation of its sovereignty. New Delhi has also been wary of the BRI, given that it is seen to saddle countries signing up for it with unviable debts and not conforming to environmental standards.

In his speech, Modi recalled that Sufism was an integral part of the cultural heritage of Central Asia and added that based on this historical heritage, SCO should develop a common template to fight radicalization and extremism.

“The 20th anniversary of SCO is also a suitable occasion to think about the future of SCO. I believe that the biggest challenges in this area are related to peace, security and trust deficit, and the root cause of these problems is increasing radicalization," Modi said. Recent developments in Afghanistan have made this challenge more apparent, and SCO should take the initiative on this issue, he said, while adding the vast economic potential of the region had remained untapped due to radicalization and insecurity.

Later addressing a special session on Afghanistan at the SCO summit, Modi said the continuing instability in Afghanistan will encourage terrorist and extremist ideologies all over the world. “The recent developments in Afghanistan will have the greatest impact on neighbouring countries like us. And therefore, there is a need for regional focus and cooperation on this issue," he said. Modi warned that if “instability and fundamentalism" persist in Afghanistan, it will encourage terrorist and extremist ideologies all over the world.

“Other extremist groups can also be encouraged to gain power through violence," he said, adding the change of power in Afghanistan was not inclusive and had happened without negotiation, putting a question mark over it.

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