India emerged as a silent dissenter after two days of deliberations attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Qingdao summit.
India was the only member state which did not endorse the BRI programme. This was revealed in the 17-page Qingdao Declaration, which named all member states, except one, as “reiterating support for China’s BRI” project. All other members — Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, besides China — backed it.
In his address to the summit, Modi "said that "connectivity with SCO and neighbours is a priority for India" but added that India "welcomes new connectivity projects that are inclusive, sustainable, transparent and those that respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations".
The prime minister also floated an overarching concept of security that the SCO could follow, calling it SECURE: S for security for citizens, E for economic development, C for connectivity in the region, U for unity, R for respect of sovereignty, E for environment protection.
Ruchi Ghanashyam, secretary (West), in the ministry of external affairs, told reporters after two meetings of the summit. “PM Modi’s priority is terror and connectivity,” she said. “PM Narendra Modi also invited Kazakhstan to join the International Solar Alliance and the President of Kazakhstan responded positively,” she added.
Besides a joint communique, 12 other documents were signed between the member countries. In his speech, Modi noted that “Only 6% of foreign tourists in India are from SCO countries; this can easily be doubled. Increasing awareness of our shared cultures can help boost this number. We will organise an SCO food festival and a Buddhist festival in India.”
In his address after the signing ceremony, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, the “Presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain is of great historic significance.” The SCO leaders “had an in-depth exchange of views on major international and regional issues... The members will work together to fight terrorism, extremism and drug trade,” he said.
During their meeting on Saturday, President Xi Jinping suggested to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that both countries set up a new bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2020, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale informed the media. Gokhale said that India has allowed China’s state-owned Bank of China to open its branch in Mumbai.
The summit also saw PM Modi and Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain exchange pleasantries after a press conference by the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. MEA officials described it as a formality.