SOCHI, Dec. 1: External Affairs Minister of India Sushma Swaraj on Friday said that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion as she urged the international community to enhance cooperation to combat the scourge which is a “crime against the entire humanity”.
Swaraj, who is here to attend the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) — a China-dominated security grouping which is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO — said that India strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
India is attending the SCO summit as a permanent member for the first time. In June, India and Pakistan had become full-fledged members of the SCO.
“My congratulations to Pakistan for becoming the full member of SCO,” Swaraj said.
“This meeting has a special significance for India because it is the first meeting of the Council, after India became the full member of the SCO. Furthermore, it is being hosted by our old and trusted friend Russia.
“I bring warm greetings and best wishes from our Prime Minister Narendra Modifor the success of this meeting,” the minister said.
Swaraj said that there can be no justification whatsoever for any acts of terrorism.
“We are determined to consistently strengthen cooperation within the SCO framework, and to work together, to seek comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security.
“We must reaffirm that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or ethnic group. It is a crime against the entire humanity,” she said while addressing the 16th meeting of Council of SCO heads of governments.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was also present during the summit.
India urges all nations to enhance cooperation in intelligence sharing, law enforcement, developing best practices and technologies, mutual legal assistance, extradition arrangements, capacity building amongst other measures for countering terrorism, Swaraj said.
The minister said that connectivity with SCO countries is India’s priority.
“We want connectivity to pave the way for cooperation and trust between our societies. For this, respect for sovereignty is essential. Inclusivity, transparency and sustainability are imperative,” Swaraj said.
Connectivity with Afghanistan is an important priority sector for India, and has improved with the operationalisation of the Air Freight Corridor between Kabul, Kandahar and New Delhi this past June, she said.
“Greater involvement of the Central Asian countries in the economic development of Afghanistan especially through enhanced trade, investment and connectivity would serve the purpose of consolidating peace and security in our region,” the minister said.
The annual SCO summit is being held in the Russian city of Sochi on November 30 and December 1.
On economy, Swaraj said that challenges before the global economy continue to persist.
“Slowdown in the world economy accompanied with increasing tide of protectionism and policy uncertainties will require measures of matching proportions.
“In the background of sluggish economic growth in the world, India’s economic growth is expected to accelerate in the long-term and we would like the other SCO members to be part of India’s growth story,” she added.
As an SCO member, India is expected to have a bigger say in pressing for concerted action in dealing with terrorism as well as on issues relating to security and defence in the region.
India’s membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was backed by China.
India had been an observer at the SCO since 2005. It has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.
The SCO had set the ball rolling to make India a member of the bloc during its summit in Ufa, Russia, in July 2015. TIE