"Too many Chinese catchphrases"; India doesn't sign SCO's Economic Development Strategy
Wary of a Chinese footprint, India refused to sign the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Economic Development Strategy for 2030 during the virtual meet
India on Tuesday, July 4, chaired the virtual Shanghai Cooperation Summit (SCO), following which, eleven documents and decisions were adopted, including the Economic Development Strategy, two thematic statements on digital transformation and deradicalisation, concluded the decision on inducting Iran into the multilateral organisation, signed the Memorandum of Obligations of the Republic of Belarus in order to obtain the status of an SCO member state, declared the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan the SCO Cultural and Tourism Capital in 2023–24, agreed to declare 2024 as the SCO Year of Environment, and several others.
Among the bouquet of outcomes, India refused to sign the Economic Development Strategy document for the year 2030 citing "too many Chinese catchphrases" — an excessive influence of Chinese policy. The Wire reported that India was wary of Chinese President Xi Jinping's influence on the document, similar to the the Global Development Initiative in the past.
The New Delhi Declaration, mentioned that the document was considered important by SCO leaders to ensure the implementation adopted by "interested" Member States — implying that India refrained from signing the document along with rest of the member states.
Proposed by Tajikistan, the Economic Development Strategy has not yet published and thus, it remains unclear as to what it might entail.
The New Delhi Declaration suggests that it could be "aimed at promoting cooperation in such priority areas as the digital economy, high technology and innovation, creation of new and modernisation of existing international routes for road and rail transport, multimodal transport corridors and logistics centres, finance and investment, energy and food security, reliable, resilient and diversified supply chains, industrial cooperation and inter-regional ties."
"The implementation of the SCO Economic Development Strategy to 2030 will further promote regional integration," Russian President Vladimir Putin had said earlier. "It will chart the main areas of investment, financial, trade and other forms of economic cooperation in the SCO region," a March 2022 SCO press release had also stated earlier.
"The Member States reaffirm that the SCO is not directed against other states and international organizations and is open to broad cooperation with them in accordance with the goals and principles of the UN Charter, SCO Charter and international law, based on consideration of mutual interests and common approaches to solving regional and global problems," read the New Delhi Declaration, while adding that India reaffirms its "support" for China's "Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)" but refused to be a signatory to it once again.
All current SCO member nations, barring India and Russia, are part of China’s BRI. India has repeatedly objected to it, since a major part of the project in Pakistan runs through the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
"Strong connectivity is crucial for the progress of any region. Better connectivity not only enhances mutual trade but also fosters mutual trust. However, in these efforts, it is essential to uphold the basic principles of the SCO charter, particularly respecting the sovereignty and regional integrity of the Member States," Modi said during the virtual meet, hinting at the BRI.
However, dismissing India's concerns, Xi Jinping defended the BRI and said, "This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by me. China will hold the third 'Belt and Road' International Cooperation Summit Forum. All parties are welcome to participate in the activities of the forum and jointly pave the road to happiness that benefits the world."
"The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative, can be a force multiplier not only for regional connectivity but also for regional stability, peace and prosperity," said Pakistani PM Shehbaz Sharif.