NEW DELHI: India on Friday warned that terrorism could singe people and countries anywhere and at any time, as it urged nations to shed their narrow perspectives and hold those responsible accountable.
In his speech at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also underlined the need for an open, rules-based and non-discriminatory trading system against the backdrop of the US-China trade war, and the Trump administration’s imposition of tariffs against countries that it says have an unfair trade advantage over the US.
Connectivity and the ways India could contribute to the China and Russia-led grouping, which it joined in 2017, were the other subjects Modi spoke of in his brief speech.
Though he did not mention Pakistan by name—SCO rules do not permit member nations to flag bilateral issues or disputes—it was clear whom Modi meant when he said: “Countries that sponsor, aid and fund terrorism must be held accountable."
To deal with the threat of terrorism, “humanitarian forces should come out of their narrow thinking and forge a united front", the Prime Minister said at the meet, where Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was also present.
India stood for a terrorism-free society, Modi said, as he called for an international conference to discuss the challenge posed by terrorism.
Prior to Modi’s departure to Bishkek, Indian officials had said that there was no bilateral meeting scheduled between the two. However, Modi exchanged “usual pleasantries" with Khan on the sidelines of the summit, one person familiar with the developments said.
Official level talks between India and Pakistan have been stalled since 2013 and attempts to restart the process have come to nought, primarily due to persistent terrorist attacks in India.
Terrorism emanating from Pakistan was a theme Modi dwelt on in his bilateral conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.This comes against the backdrop of Beijing calling for talks between India and Pakistan, and Moscow forging ties with Islamabad.
In his meeting with Xi, Modi said Pakistan was yet to take “concrete action" on India’s concerns and create an atmosphere free of terrorism, which is necessary to facilitate any possible engagement between the two sides. Modi also told Xi that India has a “consistent position on Pakistan", which includes discussing all issues bilaterally and looking for peaceful settlement through negotiations, Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters.
On his part, Khan sought to put India in the dock over Kashmir. “Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state-terrorism against people under illegal occupation," Khan said in his speech. “We are among the few countries to have successfully turned the tide against terrorism," he said.
In his remarks on Friday, Modi also said a “peaceful, united, safe and prosperous" Afghanistan was critical to the stability and security of the SCO. “Our goal is to support the people and the government of Afghanistan for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled comprehensive peace process. We are happy that a further road map has been prepared at the SCO Afghanistan Contact Group."
On connectivity, Modi said that New Delhi’s participation in projects such as the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the Ashgabat Agreement, besides its development of Iran’s Chabahar port, was a hallmark of its commitment to linkages between India and the region.
The INSTC is a 7,200-km multi-mode network of ship, rail and road routes for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe. The Ashgabat Agreement is a pact among Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and Oman to build an international transport and transit corridor that facilitates transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
New Delhi has been trying to forge closer trade and people-to-people links with Central Asia for decades, but its efforts have been hampered by the lack of direct land routes —a result of the tense ties with Pakistan.
In his speech, Modi said India would be happy to share its expertise in tele-medicine and healthcare with SCO members. New Delhi would also share its experience in rendering humanitarian assistance during natural calamities, he added.
Ties between India and Pakistan have been at a low since the 14 February suicide attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama region that killed about 40 paramilitary soldiers. After the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, India struck a JeM training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot region on 26 February. In retaliation, Pakistan launched an air raid against Indian military installations in Kashmir, an attack Indian fighter jets foiled.