Modi-Imran handshake at SCO raises hopes in India-Pakistan

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Srinagar

On Friday, as the news of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan exchanged usual pleasantries and shook hands in the Leaders’ Lounge at Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, it instantly raised hopes for a possible ice-break in India-Pakistan relations.

Imran Khan and Narendra Modi

This was first ever meeting between the two leaders after Imran Khan took oath as Pakistan’s Prime Minister.

It was Pakistan’s Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who confirmed that the two leaders shook hands with each other. When asked how much they spoke to each other, Qureshi said, “I didn’t have a stopwatch”.

The Indian Express reported that before landing in Bishkek, Khan had told Russian news agency Sputnik that Pakistan’s relationship with India is probably at its “lowest point”, and hoped Modi will use his “big mandate” to resolve all differences, including the Kashmir issue.

In his address at Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, Prime Minister Modi highlighted the spirit and ideals of the SCO to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism. He said that the countries sponsoring, aiding and funding terrorism must be held accountable. He also called for a global conference to combat the menace of terrorism.

Prime Minister Modi also called on the SCO member states to cooperate under the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) against terrorism.

Speaking at the same event Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during his address said that South Asia continues to be challenged by the common enemies including poverty, illiteracy, disease and under-development.

“It is important to seize the opportunities for peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes and collective endeavours for regional prosperity,” Khan said.

Khan also said that Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including “state-terrorism against people under illegal occupation.”

After the subtle war-of-words between the two leaders, the handshake provided a ray of hope for a thaw in otherwise frozen relations.

The SCO summit concluded by the signing of a joint declaration that called for greater cooperation among member countries and reaffirmed their intent to ensure security for their region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, and the leaders of other SCO member states — Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan — were among those in attendance for the summit on June 14.

Ahead of the summit, Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov had said talks would focus on expanding cooperation within the SCO on security, fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, economic development, industry, and humanitarian cooperation.

Russia will now take over the SCO chairmanship. The parties have agreed to hold the next summit in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on July 22-23, 2020.

Following the SCO summit, Putin, Xi, Central Asian leaders, and senior officials from dozens of other countries are scheduled to convene on June 15 in neighbouring Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, for the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

A statement released after the 19th summit said that there can be no justification for any acts of terrorism and extremism.

“The Member States consider it important to implement comprehensive measures to more effectively counter terrorism and its ideology, to expose and eliminate various factors and conditions that facilitate terrorism and extremism,” the declaration said.

“[SCO members] noted the unacceptability of interfering in the domestic affairs of states under the pretext of countering terrorism and extremism, as well as the unacceptability of using terrorist, extremist and radical groups for mercenary purposes,” it added.

The SCO members states that have signed the Code of Conduct to Achieve a Terrorism-Free World advocated “consistent implementation of its provisions”.

The declaration said it was necessary to “ensure the earliest possible enactment of a protocol” on security guarantees to the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone Treaty for all signatory states.

It emphasized the “unacceptability of attempts to ensure one country’s security at the expense of other counties’ security and noted that the unilateral and unlimited buildup of missile defense systems by certain countries or groups of states was detrimental to international security and a destabilizing factor in the world”.

The heads of the member-states reviewed the implementation of the results of the 2018 Qingdao summit and the priority goals for SCO development in the context of current global political and economic processes.

“The Member States emphasized that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an effective and constructive mechanism for multilateral cooperation that plays an important role in maintaining regional peace and stability and in facilitating the prosperity and development of the Member States,” the declaration said.

It also reaffirmed the member states’ commitment to enhancing the central coordinating role of the UN and its Security Council as a body vested with the main responsibility for maintaining international peace and security under the UN Charter.

“In this context, they [SCO member states] noted the intentions of the Republic of India, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan and the Republic of Tajikistan to be elected as rotating members of the UN Security Council, as well as the intentions of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Uzbekistan to be elected to the UN Human Rights Council,” the declaration added.

The declaration said that SCO will also sign memorandums of understanding with the World Tourism Organization, Astana International Finance Center, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, UN Economic Commission for Europe, World Tourism Organization and Astana International Finance Center.

A roadmap for further actions of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group were also inked during the summit.

Four heads of SCO observer states, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, also participated in the summit.

After the summit concluded, Kyrgyzstan handed over the chairmanship of the SCO to Russia.

Russia will be hosting 20th SCO summit on 22-23 July 2020.

In his address to the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his country will pay particular attention to deepening of cultural and humanitarian ties during its SCO chairmanship.

“In particular, we will focus on the implementation of the reached agreements on cooperation in mass media, physical education, sport and tourism,” he said.

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