Bishkek: India on Wednesday said the ghastly bombings in Sri Lanka at a time when the wounds of the Pulwama terror attack were still raw in people’s mind has made it more determined to resolutely fight against the menace. Addressing the meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Foreign Ministers here in the Kyrgyz capital, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said India is determined to consistently strengthen cooperation within the SCO framework for comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security.
“Our heart goes out to our brothers and sisters of Sri Lanka, who have recently witnessed the ghastly act of terrorism. Our wounds of Pulwama attack were still raw and the news from the neighbourhood has made us more determined to resolutely fight against this menace,” Swaraj said at the meeting, also attended by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, killing more than 250 people and injuring 500 others.
The ISIS terror group claimed the attacks, but the government blamed the local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ) for the Easter Sunday bombings.
The attack came months after India witnessed a suicide attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed on CRPF personnel in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, killing 40 soldiers.
Swaraj said India is open to ideas on how we can make the work of Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence, more effective.
In spite of a turbulent global scenario, SCO member states have been steadily expanding mutually beneficial cooperation in various spheres, including political, security and development, Swaraj said. She said that India was committed to continue working for a favourable environment for the SCO member countries’ economic activities and to intensify work on the relevant SCO documents dealing with economic and trade cooperation.
“India subscribes to a rule-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system, centred around the World Trade Organisation, and firmly oppose unilateralism and protectionism,” she said, amidst the trade war between China and the US.
India was an observer at the SCO since 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.
Along with India, Pakistan was also granted the SCO membership in 2017.
The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Swaraj said science and technology led innovation and the digital economy were the key areas which could play an important role in the long-term inclusive and sustainable growth.
India has adopted a multi-pronged welfare approach, which includes – development of human resources, promoting R&D and innovation, enhancing efficiency through digital services and ensuring secure cyberspace.
Swaraj said India had a commitment to regional connectivity, which was evident from its involvement in the International North-South Transport Corridor, Chabahar Port, Ashgabat Agreement and India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway.
“We have also operationalised air freight corridors between Kabul and Kandahar and New Delhi and Mumbai in 2017. We welcome regional connectivity initiatives, that are inclusive, sustainable, transparent and respect the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Swaraj said, apparently referring to India’s objection to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
She said India supported initiatives for capacity building, human resource development and fostering greater interaction among the youth of the region.
India, she said, was ready to share its expertise with other SCO members in such fields as agriculture, medicine, Information Technology, space, finance and renewable energy.
“India stands committed to any process, which can help Afghanistan emerge as a united, peaceful, secure, stable, inclusive and economically vibrant nation, with guaranteed gender and human rights. I wish to once again underscore the importance India attaches to SCO Afghanistan Contact Group and welcome an early conclusion of the draft roadmap of further actions of the Contact Group,” she said.
The group was established in 2005 in order to draft recommendations and proposals on SCO-Afghanistan cooperation in areas of mutual concern. It was decided at the SCO summit held in Astana, Kazakhstan, in July 2017 that the group’s activities need to be adjusted following the expansion of the SCO’s membership.
India welcomes the increased international engagement of the SCO with other international and regional organisations and the fruitful efforts of the SCO Secretariat in forging cooperation in the cultural and humanitarian spheres.