NEW DELHI: Asserting that terrorism is the biggest challenge the region is facing, India on Monday criticised Pakistan for using it as an "instrument of state policy", and called upon the SCO to combat the menace collectively and enforce internationally recognised legal statutes to comprehensively eradicate safe havens, infrastructure and financial networks supporting terrorism.
In an address at the Council of Heads of Government meeting of the eight-member Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Vice President Venkaiah Naidu said the most important challenge faced by the region is terrorism, particularly cross-border terrorism, and that India remained concerned about threats emerging from ungoverned spaces as well.
Chairing the virtual meeting hosted by India, Naidu also talked about ways to recover from adverse economic impact of the COVID-19, and said it was trust and transparency that determine the sustainability of global trade, adding nations must demonstrate their compliance with multilateral rules of trade to remain a part of the system.
"Terrorism is truly the enemy of humanity. It is a scourge we need to collectively combat. We remain concerned about threats emerging from ungoverned spaces and are particularly concerned about states that leverage terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Such an approach is entirely against the spirit and ideals and the charter of the SCO," he said without naming Pakistan.
He said elimination of this threat will help the countries realise shared potential and create conditions for stable and secure economic growth and sustainable development.
The vice president also called upon SCO member states to enforce internationally recognised legal statutes to comprehensively eradicate safe havens, infrastructure and financial networks supporting terrorism, a statement issued by Naidu's office said.
A joint communique issued at the end of the 19th summit of SCO Council of HoG meeting said Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan reaffirmed their support for China's 'One Belt, One Road' (OBOR) initiative and noted the ongoing work on joint implementation of the project.
India has been opposing the project as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of the OBOR, passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).
Secretary West in the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said the meeting was attended by prime ministers of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan while Pakistan was represented by its parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs.
Asked about Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan skipping the meeting, Swarup at a media briefing said the answer can only be given by Islamabad as it is for a country to decide on the level of participation.
"As far as we are concerned, we were chairing today's summit. We upgraded our level of participation from prime minister to vice president. Pakistan can only tell the reason about the level of its participation," he said.
Responding to another question on whether Pakistan would join various initiatives proposed by India at the SCO, Swarup said it was entirely up to that country to decide but noted that the SCO charter allows other member countries to take particular cooperation forward with the exclusion of the one country which is opposing it.
Asked whether China and Pakistan's difficult bilateral ties with India will have any impact on the grouping, Swarup said "if the member countries have the will, I am sure we can all find common ground."
"We all have seen from our previous experiences that raising bilateral issues only serves to vitiate the atmosphere and holds up concrete cooperation in a whole host of areas. As far as we are concerned, we have scrupulously adhered to the provision in the SCO charter. We do not raise bilateral issues in SCO forums and we expect other countries to do the same," he said.
In his address Naidu, in another indirect reference to Pakistan, criticised attempts to bring bilateral issues into the SCO by blatantly violating its well-established principles and norms of charter safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the member states.
"Such acts are counterproductive to the spirit of consensus and cooperation that define the SCO as an organisation," he said.
In mid-September, India's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval walked out of a virtual meeting of top security officials of the SCO member states after the Pakistani representative projected a map that inaccurately depicted Kashmir.
Swarup said the SCO summit is held annually at the level of prime ministers of SCO and deals primarily with the trade and economic agenda of the organisation.
It was the first time that a summit-level meeting was held under India's chairmanship since it gained full-membership of the organisation in 2017.
Apart from the SCO member states, Swarup said four observer states, Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus and Mongolia also participated in the meeting.
Turkmenistan was invited as a special guest.
In the joint communique, the SCO also mentioned about the "high turbulence" in global politics and economy, noting that the process of economic globalisation is hampered by the growth of unilateral and protectionist measures, instability of financial markets and other risks for international trade.
"In order to address emerging economic problems, especially the most economically vulnerable members of society, it is necessary to promote new approaches and procedures for crisis management, to strengthen and improve the work of the World Health Organization and other intergovernmental organisations," it said.
It said the heads of delegations spoke in favor of further deepening cooperation between the SCO member states in creating favorable conditions for expanding mutual investments by improving the investment and business climate, as well as in developing e-commerce.
In his address, Naidu talked about the importance of collective efforts to overcome the coronavirus crisis and its adverse impact.
"Our hope is pinned on trade and investment as an engine of reviving growth and driver of economic recovery.
For trade to play its part in the recovery process, all the partners must be trustworthy and transparent," he said.
"It is trust and transparency that determine the sustainability of global trade and nations must demonstrate their compliance with multilateral rules of trade to remain a part of this system," he added.
At the same time, he said economic growth and trade can only operate in an environment of peace and security.
"Peace is the essential prerequisite for progress."
He said India was emerging as an economic force at the global level and the country's GDP was expected to reach USD 5 trillion by 2025.
"With more than 1 billion mobile subscribers and over 600 million internet users, India has the potential to emerge as one of the largest digital ecosystems in the world," he said.
"However, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the economic trajectory of all member states.
India has bravely fought the global pandemic and has shown remarkable resilience in fighting the virus as well as in ensuring economic stability," he said.
The vice president also underlined the need for a reformed multilateralism that gives voice to all stakeholders, addresses contemporary challenges and puts human beings at the center of the policies.
"To ensure stable economic growth, we have launched a new economic strategy: Atmanirbhar Bharat or Self-reliant India. It prioritises building the national economic strength, resilience and enhanced capacities to be a trusted partner and a responsible global player," he said.
"It recognises the importance of reciprocity, transparency and fairness in the context of trade.
It is gratifying that the Indian economy is steadily moving on the path of recovery," Naidu added.
The vice president also congratulated SCO trade ministers for approving the action plan for the implementation of the program of multilateral trade and economic cooperation for 2021-2025.