PM Modi calls for SCO template to fight radicalisation, extremism
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday pitched for developing a common template by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to fight radicalisation, saying it is a challenge to peace, security and trust deficit in the region as reflected by recent developments in Afghanistan.
In a virtual address at the annual SCO summit, Modi also called for enhancing connectivity between the landlocked Central Asian countries and India but at the same time noted that connectivity projects should be consultative, transparent and they should be implemented while respecting the territorial integrity of all countries.
The prime minister talked about Sufism and the cultural heritage of Central Asia, and said on the basis of this historical heritage, the SCO should develop a common template to fight radicalisation and extremism.
"The 20th anniversary of the SCO is also a suitable occasion to think about the future of the SCO. I believe that the biggest challenges in this area are related to peace, security and trust deficit and the root cause of these problems is increasing radicalisation," the prime minister said.
He said the recent developments in Afghanistan have made this challenge more apparent and the SCO should take an initiative on this issue.
"If we look at history, we will find that the region of Central Asia has been a bastion of moderate and progressive cultures and values. Traditions like Sufism have flourished here over the centuries and spread throughout the region and the world," the prime minister said.
"We can still see their influence in the cultural heritage of this region. On the basis of this historical heritage of Central Asia, SCO should develop a common template to fight radicalisation and extremism," he said.
Modi said the SCO should work to develop a strong network among moderate, tolerant and inclusive institutions and traditions associated with Islam.
"In India, and almost in all SCO countries, there are moderate, tolerant and inclusive institutions and traditions associated with Islam. SCO should work to develop a strong network between them," he said.
"In this context, I appreciate the useful work being done by SCO-RATS. We expect our SCO partners to actively participate in the calendar of activities that has been built for India's Presidency of SCO-RATS," he added.
India has shown keen interest in deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.
The prime minister said that one of the main reasons for the success of SCO is that its core focus has been on the priorities of the region.
"My suggestions on radicalisation, connectivity and people-to-people relations will further strengthen this role of SCO," he said.
The prime minister said fighting radicalisation is not only necessary for regional security and mutual trust, but it is also necessary for the bright future of our younger generations.
"To compete with the developed world, our region has to become a stakeholder in emerging technologies. For this we have to encourage our talented youth towards science and rational thinking," he said.
The prime minister said the vast economic potential of the region has also remained untapped due to radicalisation and insecurity.
He said, to take full advantage of the potential, there was a need to enhance connectivity and that India is committed to increasing its connectivity with Central Asia.
"We believe that landlocked Central Asian countries can benefit immensely by connecting with India's vast market. Unfortunately, many connectivity options are not open to them today due to lack of mutual trust," Modi said.
"Our investment in Iran's Chabahar port and our efforts towards the International North-South Corridor are driven by this reality," he said.
The prime minister said that any initiative on connectivity cannot be a one-way street and that connectivity projects should be consultative, transparent and participatory to ensure mutual trust.
His comments came in the backdrop of increasing criticism of China's Belt and Road Initiative.
"In this regard, respect for the territorial integrity of all countries should be implicit. Based on these principles, the SCO should develop suitable norms for connectivity projects in the region," Modi said.
"With this, we will be able to restore the traditional connectivity of this region and only then connectivity projects will work to connect us, not to increase the distance between us. For this effort, India is ready to make any contribution from its side," he said.
The SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO, is an eight-member economic and security bloc and has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations.
India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.
The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.