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Diplomacy

Wary of Chinese Phrasing, India Doesn’t Sign SCO’s Economic Development Strategy

As per sources, India had largely given up as the text of the document "had too many Chinese catchphrases" that were reminiscent of similar exercises in multilateral organisations.

New Delhi: India on Tuesday refused to sign the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)’s Economic Development Strategy for 2030 due to objections over retaining language that echoed Chinese official policies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the virtual summit on the Eurasian regional group on Tuesday, following which eleven documents and decisions were adopted. These included the New Delhi Declaration and two thematic statements on digital transformation and deradicalisation.

Among the various outcomes was the SCO Economic Development Strategy for 2030, which according to the Kremlin was among the approved decisions of the council of the heads of states.

The New Delhi Declaration mentioned the document but with a unique phrasing. It said that the SCO leaders “consider it important to ensure the implementation of the SCO Economic Development Strategy 2030 adopted by interested Member States”.

By inserting the phrase “interested”, it was clear that the document had not got universal endorsement. The Wire has learnt India didn’t sign on with the rest of the SCO member states who approved the document.

As per sources, India had largely given up as the final text of the document remained injected with too many references to Chinese diplomatic catchphrases and policies that reflected the pet policies of Chinese President Xi Jinping, like the Global Development Initiative.

Since the SCO Economic Development Strategy has not yet been made public, it is not clear what it entails.

The New Delhi Declaration indicates that the strategy document could involve areas of “digital economy, high technology and innovation, 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 and industrial cooperation”.

As per Russian President Vladimir Putin’s public remarks, the “implementation of the SCO Economic Development Strategy to 2030 will further promote regional integration”.

A press release of the SCO secretariat dated March 2022 claimed that the “strategy will chart the main areas of investment, financial, trade and other forms of economic cooperation in the SCO region”.

The initiative, as per the SCO press note, was first put forward by Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon at the SCO summit in 2017 and was “confirmed” in Uzbekistan last year. However, the Samarkand declaration has no mention of this proposal.

Incidentally, another endorsement from the SCO that India is not part of is China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Every year, this is reflected by the absence of India in the list of countries that support China’s flagship connectivity project in the summit declaration.

Some of India’s proposals also don’t seem to have been approved at the Summit.

Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar had said in May that India has proposed the New Delhi Declaration and “four other thematic joint statements on cooperation on de-radicalization, strategies, promotion of millets, sustainable lifestyles to address climate change and digital transformation”.

“I seek your support in timely finalisation of these documents for approval by our leaders at the SCO Summit,” he said at the Goa meeting of the foreign ministers.

In the end, only two of them have been adopted, with the joint statements on millets and sustainable lifestyles not finding any mention.