Fair market access is to our mutual benefit: Jaishankar at SCO meet
Says connectivity projects should respect sovereignty
New Delhi: Connectivity projects should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said amid increasing criticism of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
In an address at a virtual meeting of SCO Council of Heads of Government (CHG), Jaishankar asserted that “fair market access” is the only way to move forward and said Chabahar port and the International North South Transport Corridor could become “enablers” for better connectivity in the SCO region.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hosted the 21st meeting of the CHG.
The external affairs minister said India intends to foster greater cooperation with SCO member states in countering the global food crisis. The food security challenge has arisen following the Ukraine conflict.
On economic engagement, Jaishankar said India’s total trade with SCO member states is only USD 141 billion, which has potential to increase manifold, noting that “fair market access is to our mutual benefit and only way to move forward”.
There have been concerns in India over China not giving access to it to certain sectors of its market.
While underlining the need for better connectivity in the SCO region, Jaishankar said it should be built around the centrality of “interests of Central Asian states”.
“Represented India at the meeting of SCO Council of Heads of Government which has just concluded. Underlined that we need better connectivity in the SCO region built on the centrality of interests of Central Asian states,” he tweeted.
The external affairs minister said better connectivity will unlock the economic potential of the region in which Chabahar port and the International North South Transport Corridor could become enablers.
“Connectivity projects should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and respect international law,” Jaishankar said.
India has been severely critical of the BRI as the USD 50 billion project includes the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The CPEC that passes through Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir.
Jaishankar also underlined the potential of Chabahar port for the economic future of the SCO region.
Located in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran’s southern coast, the Chabahar port is being developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan to boost connectivity and trade ties.
At a connectivity conference in Tashkent in July last year, Jaishankar had projected Iran’s Chabahar Port as a key regional transit hub, including Afghanistan.
The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode transport project for moving freight among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe. India has been supporting the project.
In his remarks, Jaishankar also spoke about the ‘Mission LiFE’ launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently that envisions replacing the prevalent ‘use and dispose’ economy by a circular economy.
“Highlighted that in 2023, the UN International Year of Millets, India intends to foster greater cooperation with SCO Member States on countering the food crisis,” he tweeted.
“Appreciate condolences expressed at the loss of lives in the Morbi tragedy. Look forward to India’s ongoing chairship of the SCO,” he said in another tweet.
The CHG meeting is held annually and focuses on the trade and economic agenda of the bloc and to approve its annual budget.
The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Over the years, it has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.
The annual SCO summit took place in the Uzbek city of Samarkand last month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders of the grouping had attended it.
Usually, the heads of government meeting of the SCO is represented by foreign ministers while a number of countries send their prime ministers also.