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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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India, Pakistan join connectivity projects but India clarifies ‘territorial integrity and sovereignty’ should be respected

Summit at the Kazakhstan capital Astana

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan - In a bid to be part of connectivity projects among the eight-nation security bloc, India and Pakistan joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit at the Kazakhstan capital Astana.
However, in his address there, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while the connectivity projects among the security bloc were a priority for India, he made oblique reference to India's concerns about the OBOR and CPEC and said that such projects had to respect "territorial integrity and sovereignty” of countries for them to succeed and gain acceptance.
Modi said, “For connectivity initiatives and for success and approval of the projects, sovereignty and regional integrity must be respected while inclusivity and sustainability are essential.”
The resource-rich grouping, that has Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as members, collaborates on trade, economy, connectivity, energy, transport, banking and security. 
The SCO was formed in 1996 with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, China and Tajikistan as members and in 2001, Uzbekistan was inducted into the group.
As the SCO expands, to include India and Pakistan, Modi said the SCO would represent 42 percent of humanity and nearly 22 percent of global GDP.
As relations between the neighbours and longtime rivals, India and Pakistan continue to deteriorate, India had halted dialogue with Pakistan, insisting that terror and talks could not go together.
Modi said in his brief address at the summit that the member countries must fight all aspects of terrorism that is one of the chief violators of human rights and values, delivering a veiled message to Islamabad.
Expressing confidence that the SCO would give a hard push to fight terrorism, Modi said unless all member countries make coordinated and bold efforts to fight terrorism - right from radicalisation to recruitment of terrorists, their training and terror financing - it would be "impossible" to resolve the problem.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who met with Modi for the first time in over a year, during a cultural gala organised in Astana ahead for the summit, indulged in what sources called ‘small talk’ with the Indian Prime Minister.
The interaction came 17 months after Modi's surprise visit to Lahore to greet Sharif on his birthday and attend a pre-marriage function at his residence on December 25, 2015.
Responding to Modi’s statement, Sharif said, "We fully endorse the SCO's resolve to fight the twin evils of terrorism and extremism. Pakistan has fought its own fierce war in the fight against international terrorism and, with the grace of God, it has been able to achieve a turnaround in the security and economic situation in our country.”
Sharif added that the Belt and Road initiative transforms the global economic landscape. 
He noted, “And in Pakistan, we are diligently implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is the flagship of the BRI. What is more, these mega-projects will benefit the entire SCO community.”
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Modi held a meeting and are said to have discussed multiple issues including those on which divergence between the two countries had amplified in recent months. 
A stretch of Beijing's "Silk Road" initiative to expand trade links between China and Eurasia that runs through the PoK was once such issue.
Apart from the One Belt One Road initiative, the two leaders also discussed issues related to China's reservations about India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, UN sanctioning of Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar.
A Chinese foreign ministry statement said that Jinping emphasised on the two countries working to ‘appropriately’ manage their differences. 
He reportedly also called for increasing trade and investment cooperation to let the two countries enjoy more "early stage profits" from large scale projects in infrastructure and industry.
Meanwhile, the Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said, "The sense of the meeting was that the two countries have great benefit, great interest in working with each other and we will have differences. But there was an understanding that where we have differences, it is important that differences should not become disputes and, in fact, if they were handled well, they could even be opportunities. Also a sense that wherever we have concerns, each side will look at it with a degree of seriousness.”
Jaishankar highlighted the differences between the two countries and said India's concerns about the OBOR, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor forming part of it and Beijing's opposition to India's membership of the NSG and UN sanctions on Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar.
He said the broad thrust of the meeting was that at a time of global uncertainty, India-China relations are a factor of stability.
Commenting on India’s concerns about the OBOR and its absence from the OBOR forum, the foreign secretary said India and China discussed conne

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