Jaishankar on China’s BRI: ‘Connectivity initiatives must respect sovereignty, territorial integrity’

In a reference to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), External Affairs minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said “any serious connectivity initiative must be transparent and conform to the most basic principle of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Jaishankar made these comments during a virtual address at a meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government on Thursday. India has been critical of the BRI as the USD 500-billion corridor passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

He also said that repeated attempts to deliberately bring bilateral issues into the SCO violate the laid down principles of the grouping and such counter-productive acts should be “condemned”.


Jaishankar said India has been taking steps to operationalise the Chabahar port in Iran to provide secure and commercially viable access to the sea for Central Asian countries.

India has proposed to include the Chabahar port in the framework of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) while reaffirming New Delhi’s commitment to “cooperate, plan, invest and build physical and digital connectivity in the SCO region,” he said.

The eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.

“India considers the SCO as an important regional group to promote cooperation in various fields based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality,” Jaishankar said.

“It is unfortunate to note that there have been repeated attempts to deliberately bring bilateral issues into SCO. This violates the well-established principles and norms of the SCO charter,” he said. Pakistan has attempted to raise the Kashmir issue at SCO meetings on several occasions in the past few years.

“Such acts are counterproductive to the spirit of consensus and cooperation that define this organization and should be condemned,” the external affairs minister said.

Talking about economic prosperity, he said India believes that greater connectivity is an economic force-multiplier that has acquired greater salience in the post-Covid era.

“However, any serious connectivity initiative must be consultative, transparent and participatory. It must conform to the most basic principle of international law — respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Jaishankar added.

Showcasing India as an “emerging economic force” at the global level, he said the country’s “agile response” in fighting COVID-19 and ensuring economic stability has been noteworthy despite the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.

“Indian Startups have so far created 65 unicorns, out of which 28 unicorns were added during 2021 alone. We stand ready to share our experience with the other SCO member states through our initiative to set up a Special Working Group on Startups and Innovation,” he added.

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