Xi Jinping asks SCO countries to encourage Afghanistan to have inclusive political framework, shun terrorism

Xi was addressing a meeting of the heads of state of the SCO in Tajikistan via video link
Last Updated 17 September 2021, 13:09 IST

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said that the SCO countries should step-up coordination and encourage Afghanistan to put in place an inclusive political framework wedded to moderate policies and resolutely fight all forms of terrorism after the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Addressing the 21st summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Dushanbe via video link, Xi said: “Afghanistan has undergone drastic changes”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the summit via video link and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar attended the meeting of the eight-member bloc comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.

Xi, in his address without naming the Taliban, said: “the withdrawal of foreign troops has opened a new page in its history. But Afghanistan still faces many daunting challenges, and it needs the support and assistance of the international community, particularly countries in our region.”

“We, the SCO member states, need to step up coordination, make full use of platforms such as the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and facilitate a smooth transition in Afghanistan.

“We need to encourage Afghanistan to put in place a broad-based and inclusive political framework, adopt prudent and moderate domestic and foreign policies, resolutely fight all forms of terrorism, live in amity with its neighbours and truly embark on a path of peace, stability and development,” he said.

China, which has maintained contacts with the Taliban before and after it took over power in Kabul in mid-August, has announced a USD 31 million aid for food and vaccines for Afghanistan.

Though it has not yet formally announced its recognition to the interim government of the Taliban, China along with Pakistan and Russia has kept its embassy open in Kabul. Its envoy formally met the officials of the interim government.

Xi also said that the SCO countries “need to follow the journey of upholding our common security”.

“Faced with complex and fluid security dynamics in the region, we need to pursue common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and take tough actions against terrorism, separatism and extremism,” he said.

He particularly named the Uygur militant organisation, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is fighting for the independence of the volatile Xinjiang province where the US and the EU countries accuse China of committing human rights violations against the native Uygur Muslims.

China has asked the Taliban not to permit the ETIM in Afghanistan to stage attacks on Xinjiang which shares borders with the war-ravaged country.

Xi, in his speech, said that the SCO countries need to strengthen cooperation on counter-narcotics, border control and security for major events, and speedily improve the SCO’s security cooperation mechanism.

“We need to further implement the Convention on Countering Extremism and other legal instruments, and enhance the capacity of competent authorities of SCO countries to maintain stability and respond to emergencies,” he said.

He also called on the SCO countries to promote openness and integration.

“We need to follow the journey of enhancing solidarity and cooperation,” the Chinese President said, adding that the SCO countries should “step up policy dialogue, communication and coordination, respect each other’s legitimate concerns and promptly resolve problems that may arise and affect our cooperation, thus keeping the SCO on a steady course of development”.

Xi, also General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), also called for the defence of political systems followed by the member states.

The SCO countries should maintain firm confidence in their systems, “reject condescending lecturing, and firmly support countries in exploring development paths and governance models that are compatible with their national conditions, he said, amidst constant pressure from the West on the CPC to relax its monopoly on political power since the country's founding in 1949.

“We should support each other in steadily advancing important political agenda including domestic elections. We must never allow any external interference in the domestic affairs of countries in our region under whatever pretext. In short, we should keep the future of our countries’ development and progress firmly in our own hands,” Xi said.

To facilitate the post-Covid economic recovery in SCO countries, China will continue to share its market opportunities, strive to reach USD 2.3 trillion in its cumulative trade with other SCO countries in the next five years, and improve its trade structure and balance, he said.

“China will open a China-SCO Business and Trade Institute to promote business and trade cooperation among SCO countries.

“As phase one, the 30 billion yuan’s equivalent special lending facility set up by China in 2018 within the SCO framework will soon be completed. China will launch the second phase of this special lending facility to promote Belt and Road cooperation,” the Chinese President said, adding that such lending will mainly cover projects related to modernisation, connectivity, infrastructure and green, low-carbon and sustainable development.

Xi said China was the first to call for fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism.

“We have taken tough actions to curb the spread of drug trafficking, cybercrime and transnational organised crime, and jointly held counter-terrorism exercises and border control operations.

“We call for seeking political settlement of international and regional hotspot issues, and we have erected a strong defense to uphold peace and tranquility in our region,” he said.

On the Covid-19 pandemic, he said that fighting the coronavirus remains the most pressing task facing all the SCO countries as he firmly opposed any act of politicising its origin tracing.

“We should follow the principle of putting people and their lives first and promote the spirit of science.

“We need to deepen international cooperation against the virus, promote fair and equitable distribution of vaccines and firmly oppose any act of politicising Covid-19 origins tracing,” Xi asserted. China is still facing pressure from the US and some western countries to be transparent regarding the outbreak of the pandemic in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

To protect the lives and health of people from around the world, China has provided close to 1.2 billion doses of finished and bulk vaccines to over 100 countries and international organisations, thus becoming the biggest vaccine provider in the world, he said.

China will step up efforts to provide a total of two billion doses to other countries in the course of this year”, Xi added.

Concluding his address, the Chinese Presidents said that procedures will be launched to admit Iran as a member state of the SCO, and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar as new dialogue partners.

“I am confident that the growing SCO family will stride ahead together with all the progressive forces of the world, and be the builders of world peace, contributors to global development and defenders of the international order.

“China will support Uzbekistan in its upcoming SCO presidency. I am sure that with the joint efforts of all our member states, the SCO will continue to scale new heights in all areas of cooperation,” he added.

(Published 17 September 2021, 11:08 IST)

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