Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 22
India stayed away from endorsing the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that met today in Bishkek. While the other countries hailed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), India’s name was missing.
China was keen to seek a nod of affirmation from the Council of Foreign Ministers of the SCO for its massive worldwide connectivity project, especially since it just hosted its second marquee event in Beijing.
But on arrival in Bishkek, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj endorsed the approach of senior Indian officials to resist an endorsement of BRI. India is among the few major countries that oppose BRI on grounds that it violates its territorial integrity (as it passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) and also because its financial contours are opaque.
The remaining SCO members — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — reaffirmed their support for the Chinese project.
The Indian reservation was a replay of last year’s meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers of SCO countries in Qingdao when Swaraj had managed to scrub India’s name from the list of countries endorsing the Chinese BRI.
Swaraj provided a hint about the opposition to BRI in her speech when she said India would welcome regional connectivity initiatives that are sustainable, transparent and respect the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. India opposes the BRI on all these grounds.
The SCO also noted the desire of India, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to run for the non-permanent membership of the UNSC and the desire of the Kazakhstan, China, Russia and Uzbekistan to run for the UN Human Rights Council.
Despite the Indian opposition to BRI, the SCO for the first time unanimously endorsed the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, an India-backed initiative. On Iran, the meeting wanted implementation of agreement on the nuclear issue and called on all parties to strictly fulfil their obligations to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement.