Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the plenary session of the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organisaiton (SCO) in China’s Qingdao on Sunday.
In his speech, he emphasised that India’s priority was to ensure connectivity with the neighbourhood and between the SCO countries in the region. PM Modi also called for respect for sovereignty, economic growth, and unity among SCO members.
“We have again reached a stage where physical and digital connectivity is changing the definition of geography. Therefore, connectivity with our neighbourhood & in the SCO region is our priority,” Modi said.
He further underlined that India was committed to extend full cooperation to a successful outcome of the summit.
PM Modi stressed on security being the topmost priority of the nation, and floated an all-inclusive concept called SECURE: ‘S’ for security for citizens, ‘E’ for economic development, ‘C’ for connectivity in the region, ‘U’ for unity, ‘R’ for respect of sovereignty and integrity, and ‘E for environment protection, which could be followed by SCO nations.
Talking about the importance of linking the region with transport corridors, Modi said connectivity does not only mean geographical link but it should ensure people-to-people contact.
“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’ (OBOR) project.
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 a SCO food festival and a Buddhist festival in India,” he said.
Citing Afghanistan as an “unfortunate example” of effect of terrorism, Modi said he hoped the brave steps towards peace taken by President Ashraf Ghani will be respected by all in the region, apparently referring to a cease-fire announced by the Afghan leader for the Eid festival.
It is for the first time the Indian prime minister is attending the SCO summit after India along with Pakistan became full-fledged members of the grouping, jointly dominated by China and Russia, which has been increasingly seen as a counter to NATO.
The SCO currently has eight member countries which represents around 42 per cent of the world’s population and 20 per cent of the global GDP.
Besides Modi, other leaders attending the summit include Chinese President Xi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain.
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.
(With inputs from agencies)