India-Pak foreign ministers attend SCO meet, no bilateral talks

10/12/2018

New Delhi, Oct. 12: External Affairs Minister (EAM) of India Sushma Swaraj on Friday shared the stage with her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Dushanbe in Tajikistan. The leaders are attending the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) meeting of the Council of Heads of Government (CHG).

Swaraj and Qureshi are at a multilateral forum together for the second time within a month following the heated exchanges during the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting along the sidelines of the UNGA in New York.

“SCO family photograph - as they say picture speaks a thousand words! EAM @SushmaSwaraj with other leaders at #SCO Heads of Government Council Meeting in Dushanbe. Geographic area of SCO has been an inspiration for physical, scientific, spiritual & cultural progress for the world,” tweeted Indian MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar along with the forum photograph where the India-Pakistan foreign ministers can be seen on opposite ends of the stage.

Later delivering her statement at the meeting, Swaraj said, “Terrorism remains the most overwhelming threat to our common goals of development and prosperity. As the footprint of terrorism expands, governments must assume their national responsibility and cooperate with each other.”

India had accepted Pakistani offer of talks between the two foreign ministers in New York last month but within 24 hours called them off citing Pakistan-sponsored terror and incitement of violence in Kashmir.

Asked about the possibility of any meeting between Swaraj and Qureshi in Dushanbe, the Pakistani foreign office spokesperson had earlier said that Islamabad “had not made any efforts to schedule talks with India” on the sidelines of the SCO in wake of events during UNGA.

“Pakistan has not shied away from talks with India and is open to discuss all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen and terrorism,” Dr Mohammad Faisal had added.

India and Pakistan armies for the first time were a part of military exercises together under the aegis of the SCO Peace Mission this year.

BRI on mind Swaraj bats for sovereignty

Meanwhile, in her remarks Swaraj advocated “an open, stable international trade regime based on centrality of the World Trade Organization”.

In comments alluding to the ambitious Chinese Belt and Roads Initiative (BRI), Swaraj underlined India is keen for enhanced connectivity but with respect for sovereignty of countries involved.

“All connectivity initiatives must be based on the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, consultations, good governance, transparency, viability and sustainability,” she said.

It is the second CHG meeting since India became a full member of the SCO in June 2017.

India was an observer at the SCO since 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.

India became a full member of the China-dominated grouping last year and New Delhi’s entry into it is expected to increase the bloc’s heft in regional geo-politics and trade negotiations besides giving it a pan-Asian hue.

Along with India, Pakistan was also granted membership of the SCO last year.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan became its members last year.

The bloc currently has eight member countries which represent around 42 per cent of the world’s population and 20 per cent of the global GDP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led an official delegation to the SCO Summit in Chinese city of Qingdao in June. — The Tribune With PTI inputs 

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