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Posted at: Dec 1, 2017, 8:51 PM; last updated: Dec 1, 2017, 10:33 PM (IST)

India, Pak trade barbs over CPEC at SCO meet

India, Pak trade barbs over CPEC at SCO meet
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with other leaders at the group photo with heads of other SCO member states.

Smita Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 1

The India-Pakistan mutual bitterness was palpable at the first meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation since its expansion this June to include the two neighbours as full members.

At the 16th meeting of the council of heads of government of SCO in Sochi in Russia, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) emerged as a key area of difference between the two sides with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in the room.

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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in a veiled reference to BRI, linking it to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through illegal Pak Occupied Kashmir, said, “Connectivity with SCO countries is India’s priority. We want connectivity to pave the way for cooperation and trust between our societies. For this, respect for sovereignty is essential. Inclusivity, transparency and sustainability are imperative.”

But Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi flaunted CPEC as the “pioneering project” of BRI that “complements the SCO’s vision of connectivity and economic integration”.

In his address Abbasi said, “We would like to see the CPEC connected to the six main trade corridors of the SCO. This will help fulfil the long cherished aspiration for land and maritime connectivity between Europe, Central Asia, China and South Asia.”

Earlier on Thursday, Abbasi held a meeting with the Chinese premier along the SCO sidelines.

“China holds high political sincerity in exploring the building of a free trade zone with Pakistan to promote balanced trade between the two sides and help companies in both countries to cooperate,” Li said, reported the Chinese state media.

India mild on Terror, Pak plays victim card

Talking about the objective of the SCO Regional Anti-Terror Structure to build a strong regional security architecture, Swaraj in a mild statement said, “At the very outset, India strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

“There can be no justification whatsoever for any acts of terrorism. We are determined to consistently strengthen cooperation within the SCO framework, and to work together, to seek comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security.”

Pakistani PM Abbasi painted his country as the victim of terrorism saying, “We have lost thousands of lives, including 6,500 military and law enforcement personnel, to terrorism.”

“We support the SCO consensus that as we engage in the fight against terrorism, we must respect the norms and principles of international law and shun ‘double standards’,” he added.

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