By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Dec. 2: India refused to join other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet in supporting China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on Monday, citing the project’s $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Barring India, Beijing’s massive trade and connectivity program was backed by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan at the end of the SCO meet with heads of government hosted by India.
The official meet stated that other countries while reaffirming their support for BRI, also noted that the “ongoing work on joint implementation of this project, including efforts to bridge construction [between] the Eurasian Economic Union and One Belt, One Road [OBOR].” India also said that the massive project does not offer a level playing ground to the country’s businesses.
Former ambassador Vishnu Prakash remarked that the SCO meet was held at a crucial time when India is decoupling from China as it was “no longer business as usual” between the two Asian giants. He further said that there is also an “unholy alliance” between China and Pakistan that will hinder India’s initiatives.
India’s trade concerns related to Beijing also impacted its decision not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which is the trade deal signed in Nov. by the members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet is an effective platform for cooperation to strengthen multilateralism, rule of international law and the UN Charter, and to further ensure “equal, mutual, indivisible, comprehensive and reliable security [and] sustainable socio-economic development”. The members stressed on the need to reform the World Trade Organisation (WTO) including key functions as negotiations, monitoring and dispute resolution.
The government heads at SCO is the second highest body which is responsible for handling the trade and economic agenda. India hosted the meeting for the first time since it was admitted into the eight-member grouping in 2017.