SCO Council of Heads of Government: Naidu’s Attack on Pakistan for Terrorism

NEW DELHI, Nov 30: Launching a veiled attack on Pakistan for using terrorism as an instrument of state policy, the Vice President of India M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday called upon Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Member States to enforce internationally recognized legal statutes to comprehensively eradicate safe havens, infrastructure and financial networks supporting terrorism.

Virtually addressing the 19th session of the SCO Council of Heads of Government, hosted by India, the Vice President said India condemned terrorism in all its manifestations. “We remain concerned about threats emerging from ungoverned spaces and are particularly concerned about States that leverage terrorism as an instrument of state policy.  Such an approach is entirely against the spirit and ideals and the Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”, he pointed out.

Stressing that peace was an essential prerequisite for progress, Naidu told the dignitaries participating in the meeting that the most important challenge faced by the region was terrorism, particularly cross-border terrorism. “Terrorism is truly the enemy of humanity. It is a scourge we need to collectively combat”, he added.

He said “elimination of this threat will help us realize our shared potential and create conditions for stable and secure economic growth and sustainable development”.

Naidu, who chaired the virtual meeting of the council, also indirectly criticised Pakistan for attempting to use SCO to raise bilateral matters and said this went against the grouping’s charter, which safeguards the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states.

The council of heads of government is the second-highest body of SCO and is responsible for handling the grouping’s trade and economic agenda and approving its annual budget. This is the first time India is hosting a meeting of the body since it was admitted into the eight-member grouping in 2017.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan did not join the virtual meeting. Pakistan’s participation was at the lowest level – the country was represented by parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Andleeb Abbas – and Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were represented by their prime ministers.

In his opening remarks, Naidu pointed to the importance of efforts to boost economic recovery amid the Covid-19 pandemic and took a tacit swipe at China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying trust alone determines sustainability of global trade and countries must demonstrate their compliance with rules of multilateral trade.

Naidu said SCO was key to cooperation based on universally recognised international norms, rule of law, openness and transparency and it is “unfortunate …that there have been attempts to deliberately bring bilateral issues into SCO and blatantly violate the well-established principles and norms of the SCO charter safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of SCO member states”.

Pakistan has repeatedly sought to raise bilateral matters such as the Kashmir issue at multilateral forums and India had walked out of a virtual meeting of national security advisers of SCO in September after the Pakistani representative projected a map that inaccurately depicted the borders of the two countries.

Naidu said the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiative was aimed at building national economic strength, resilience and enhanced capacities so that the country could be a trusted partner. The initiative recognises the importance of reciprocity, transparency and fairness in trade and was central to collective efforts to overcome vulnerabilities exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

“Partners must be trustworthy and transparent. It is trust that determines the sustainability of our global trade and nations must demonstrate their compliance with rules of multilateral trade to remain a part of this system,” he said.

Naidu also highlighted India’s role in producing more than 60% of vaccines used for global immunisation programmes and said, “This global vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all the countries in fighting this crisis.”

He noted that the socio-political impact of Covid-19 had exposed the weaknesses of global institutions, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) which needed to be revamped as part of a reformed multilateralism that reflects today’s realities and gives voice to all stakeholders.

“For this, we need a Reformed Multilateralism that reflects today’s realities, gives voice to all stakeholders, addresses contemporary challenges and puts human beings at the center of our thought and policies,” Naidu said.

Underscoring the importance of collective efforts to overcome the ongoing crisis which has exposed the world to vulnerabilities, the Vice President said “Our hope is pinned on trade and investment as an engine of reviving growth and driver of economic recovery.  For trade to play its part in the recovery process, all the partners must be trustworthy and transparent”, he pointed out and added and that nations must demonstrate their compliance with multilateral rules of trade.

He also congratulated SCO Trade Ministers for approving the Action Plan for the implementation of the Program of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation for the period 2021-2025.

(Manas Dasgupta)