The Prime Minister highlighted India’s concerns over regional stability and asked the SCO member states, which includes China and Pakistan, to ensure the grouping works closely together on issues like connectivity and trust.
“Today, we can see what is happening in Afghanistan. As SCO members it is a must for us all to ensure that there is no radicalisation and extremism on the rise there. If we take a look at history, we will find that Central Asia has been a bastion of moderate and progressive cultures and values. Sufism flourished here over the centuries and spread throughout the region and the world. We can still see them in the cultural heritage of this region,” PM Modi said at the SCO summit held online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The US pull-out from Afghanistan after a 20-year war on terror has led to new alignments, with Pakistan seen closely working with the Taliban again and China also coming into the picture by engaging with the new Taliban regime. India, which had started several infrastructure projects in Afghanistan when US forces were patrolling across the mostly barren and rocky country, had withdrawn its diplomatic mission staff from Kabul.
India is also concerned about Pakistan using Afghan soil to prep terror groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed to foment trouble in Jammu and Kashmir. India’s spymaster Ajit Doval had said it is no secret that Pakistan has made terror “an instrument of state policy”.
Welcoming Iran to the SCO as the ninth member, PM Modi said India is helping increase connectivity in Afghanistan via Iran’s Chabahar Port, and such projects should be done by “respecting each nation’s sovereignty” – a hint at the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC which India doesn’t recognise as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
“We believe that landlocked Central Asian countries can benefit immensely by connecting with India’s vast market… All (SCO) member states must ensure that connectivity projects must not be affected by the situation on ground. Of course, all this must be done respecting each nation’s sovereignty,” PM Modi said.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar have joined the SCO as dialogue partners, while Iran joined as a full member.
With inputs from NDTV