PM Narendra Modi spells SECURE code for SCO bloc


PM Narendra Modi spells SECURE code for SCO bloc

Seeking connectivity, unity and respect for sovereignty among the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday suggested linking these countries by promoting tourism and building transport corridors. He said India would host an SCO food festival and an exhibition on the Buddhist heritage shared by the grouping's eight countries — India, China, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The leaders signed 22 documents, including a framework to prevent radicalisation of youth and spread of narcotics.

Addressing the plenary session of the SCO summit at the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao, he coined the acronym 'SECURE', which stands for: security for citizens, economic development, connectivity in the region, unity, respect to sovereignty and integrity, and environmental protection.

Attending the first summit in which India is a full member of the SCO, Modi said that connectivity with neighbour countries and those in the SCO is India's priority. He called for setting up a roadmap for the 25th anniversary of SCO in 2026.

"We have again reached a stage where physical and digital connectivity is changing the definition of geography. Therefore, connectivity with our neighbourhood and in the SCO region is our priority," Modi said, adding that connectivity does not only mean geographical links but should also ensure people-to-people contacts. "India welcomes any such project which is inclusive, sustainable and transparent. And which respects member states' sovereignty and territorial integrity," Modi said in a veiled dig at China's 'One Belt One Road' project. India has been stridently opposing the project as a part of it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Modi also shook hands with Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain and had a brief chat with him when the two leaders met after signing of agreements between the members states. India and Pakistan last year became full-fledged members of the grouping, which is dominated by China and Russia and increasingly being seen as a counter to the Western bloc of NATO. The SCO's eight countries represent around 42 per cent of the world's population and 20 per cent of the global GDP.

Noting that only 6 per cent of foreign tourists in India are from SCO countries, the Prime Minister said this can easily be doubled. "Increasing awareness of our shared cultures can help boost this number. We will organise an SCO food festival and a Buddhist festival in India," he said.

Referring to the challenges posed by terrorism, he cited Afghanistan as an "unfortunate example" of the effect of terrorism. He said he hoped the steps towards peace taken by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would be respected by all in the region, apparently referring to a ceasefire announced by the Afghan leader for Ramzan.

In his address, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced offering a 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) loan to SCO for joint projects. HE suggested that China and India should set up a new bilateral trade target of USD 100 billion by 2020, as Beijing is looking at importing non-Basmati rice as well as sugar to address the huge trade deficit.

This is Modi's second visit to China in little over five weeks. The PM had travelled to Wuhan in April for an informal summit with President Jinping.

During his two-day visit to Qingdao, Modi held a series of bilateral meetings with leaders of other SCO countries. Besides President Jinping, he met Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Afghanistn President Ashraf Ghani and shook hands with Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain.

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