Raising bilateral issues is counter-productive to the spirit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar said on Thursday.
Delivering a speech virtually at the 20th meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government, Mr. Jaishankar obliquely criticised Pakistan and China and called for reform in the multilateral institutions including in the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“It is unfortunate to note that there have been repeated attempts to deliberately bring bilateral issues into SCO. This violates the well-established principles and norms of SCO Charter. Such acts are counterproductive to the spirit of consensus and cooperation that define this organisation and should be condemned,” the Minister said.
Both India and Pakistan joined SCO at the Astana summit in 2017 and ever since Pakistan has tried to raise the Kashmir issue on this platform. Both India and Russia have urged Islamabad not to raise such bilateral matters repeatedly. The SCO Charter sealed in 2002 calls for “peaceful settlement” of conflicts and disputes among member states.
Mr. Jaishankar said the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of vital global mechanisms that should have acted more efficiently, adding “This is the time to bring in much needed reforms to our global institutions, including the WHO, and rework our development strategies to face a post-COVID-19 world”.
He argued that India “considers the SCO as an important regional group” which operates on the basis of “universally recognised international norms, good governance, Rule of Law, openness, transparency and equality”.
Addressing the virtual meeting chaired by Kazakhstan, Mr. Jaishankar said India has taken steps to operationalise the port of Chabahar in Iran for expanding connectivity options of the Central Asian countries. In a veiled criticism of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through parts of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, he said connectivity corridors should respect sovereignty.
“India believes that greater connectivity is an economic force-multiplier which has acquired greater salience in the post-COVID era. However, any serious connectivity initiative must be consultative, transparent and participatory. It must conform to the most basic principle of international law — respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Mr. Jaishankar’s indirect criticism of the CPEC came a day before the 18th meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC). The November 26 meeting among Mr Jaishankar, and his Russian and Chinese counterparts —Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi — comes in the backdrop of Russia beginning the transfer of S-400 missile defence systems to India. The meeting to be held under the RIC format is likely to “strengthen trilateral cooperation including exchange of views on various regional and international issues of importance”, said a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.
The coming few weeks will see an increase in India-Russia consultation on strategic affairs including the supply of AK-203 assault rifles from Moscow. The ongoing delivery of S-400 missile defence systems that are intended to address growing India-China tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) will form the backdrop of the annual India-Russia summit level meeting in the first week of December.