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Modi hits out at China, Pakistan over CPEC; stresses respect for territorial sovereignty

New Delhi has opposed the CPEC because it is set to pass through areas of Jammu and Kashmir

Narendra Modi file photo. Credit: PTI photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday tacitly hit out at Beijing and Islamabad over the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that is set to pass through areas that New Delhi claimed were part of India's territory that its western neighbour had illegally occupied.

Modi, who addressed the virtual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), stressed the need to respect the sovereignty of nations while pursuing connectivity initiatives in the region. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan attended the summit, which was held through video-links.

“It is necessary to respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity to further deepen cooperation (among the SCO nations) for regional connectivity
,” said the Prime Minister, addressing the summit of the eight-nation bloc.

Beijing has pledged to invest over $70 billion in the CPEC, which is proposed to link China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region and the port city of Gwadar in southern Pakistan. It is one of the flagship projects of the Belt and Road Initiative, the ambitious cross-continental connectivity project launched by the Chinese President a few years ago.

New Delhi has opposed the CPEC because it is set to pass through areas of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), which India claims is part of its territory and areas that the country has accused Pakistan of illegally occupying.

Modi noted that India traditionally supported connectivity and development projects in the SCO region. He referred to India’s role in developing and running the Chabahar Port in Iran for sea-land connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia as well as in the International North South Transport Corridor projects.

The SCO summit was the first event attended by Modi and Xi after the stand-off between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh in late April and early May. New Delhi has accused the Chinese PLA of trying to change the status quo along the LAC, disregarding the sovereignty of India.

"We need to deepen solidarity and mutual trust and resolve disputes and differences through dialogue and consultation in order to cement the political foundation for SCO development,” said Xi in his speech at the summit, which was chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Modi also tacitly criticised Pakistan of trying to use the SCO platform to raise bilateral issues with India, violating the charter of the bloc and its guiding philosophy known as the 'Shanghai Spirit'. He did not name Pakistan but put forward India’s view that such efforts were contrary to the SCO spirit of consensus and cooperation.

Khan addressed the SCO summit after Modi and indirectly raised the issue of J&K. He called for “faithfully implementing the United Nations Security Council resolutions for peaceful solutions to outstanding disputes”. He also not-so-subtly criticised the Modi Government’s Aug. 5, 2019, decision to strip J&K of its special status and reorganise the state into two Union Territories. He said that “unilateral and illegal measures to change the status of disputed territories” adversely affected the “regional environment”.


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