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India focuses on terror, connectivity, Afghanistan at SCO FMs meet

SCO's Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure or RATS has emerged as an important forum for counter-terror cooperation and India has called for making it more effective. 

India focuses on terror, connectivity, Afghanistan at SCO FMs meet

NEW DELHI: Terror, connectivity and Afghanistan were the main focus areas for India during External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj statement at the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) Foriegn Ministers meet in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Recalling the Sri Lanka terror attack on April 21, Swaraj said, "Our wounds of Pulwama attack were still raw and the news from the neighborhood has made us more determined to fight firmly resolutely against this menace."

SCO's Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure or RATS has emerged as an important forum for counter-terror cooperation and India has called for making it more effective. On connectivity, India talked about 5 connectivity initiatives the International North-South Transport Corridor that will connect Mumbai with Moscow, Chabahar Port that will connect India to afghanistan & beyond, the Ashgabat Agreement for central asia connectivity, the India Afghanistan air corridor & towards the east the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway. But New Delhi said the connectivity projects needs to be, "inclusive, sustainable, transparent and respect the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity", a comment that questions Chinese Belt & road initiative that is causing debt crisis in many countries participating in it.

And finally on Afghanistan, Sushma Swaraj said, "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." Comments on Afghanistan comes in the backdrop of Delhi's increased engagement with stakeholders such as US, China, Iran and Russia on the Afghan peace process.

This is the last high level engagement of Sushma Swaraj in a foriegn country as the external affairs minister under the present government. This is the 2nd SCO FMs meet in which New Delhi is participating as a full member of SCO, the last being in April last year in Beijing. 

During the SCO FMs meet on Wednesday, Sushma Swaraj & her Pakistani counter part Shah Mahmood Qureshi came face to face for first time since the Pulwama terror attack on 14th February whose responsibility was taken by Pakistan based UN listed terror group Jaish e Mohammad. On expected lines, no meeting happened between the 2 India Pakistan ministers.

The last time both ministers were under same roof was during informal SAARC meet on the sidelines of United Nation General Assembly in New York in 2018. India got full membership of the grouping along with Pakistan in 2017 during the Astana summit of SCO with the process beginning during 2015SCO summit in Russia.

The SCO FMs meet comes weeks before the SCO leaders summit in Kyrgyzstan in which the new Indian Prime Minister will be participating. Focus in that summit will be on his likely meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping or if New Indian PM would like to meet his Pakistani counterpart--Pakistani PM Imran Khan.