Sovereignty, Geography & Global Trade

The recent visit of the Indian prime minister to China……. can it be considered a successful one? Indeed, it’s a difficult question.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the June 9-10 Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the coastal Chinese city of Qingdao, signed several documents and set an example of co-operation with China. All these are positive developments.
It’s not easy to bring India and Pakistan on a same platform. China managed to do that and the two South Asian rivals signed a declaration, calling for a three-year plan to combat terrorism. Of course, Chinese President Xi Jinping deserves credit for this breakthrough… but, it wasn’t possible for him to taste the success without PM Modi’s active co-operation. Modi and his government showed interest in holding talks on terrorism with Pakistan. In Quingdao, the Indian premier shook hands with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and exchanged greetings in the presence of the Chinese leader.

Most importantly, India softened its stand on China’s Belt Road Initiative (BIR) at the SCO Summit, with the PM saying: “India welcomes any such project which is inclusive, sustainable and transparent, and which respects member states’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.” However, India was the only country in the eight-nation SCO that refused to endorse the ambitious Chinese initiative for which Beijing has signed pacts with nearly 80 countries and international organisations.
It could not be called ‘non co-operation’ as India had made its stance clear on this particular issue. On the contrary, the SCO Summit should be considered as a successful one, as all the participating countries endorsed the BIR in the presence of Indian PM. In other words, China didn’t force India to change its stand. Most importantly, Beijing used different language to prepare the draft proposal of the BIR. It was a well-judged decision. This flexibility was necessary to ensure the success of crucial international summit, like SCO. Opinions of all the countries on a particular issue may not be similar, but debates would surely help them avoid conflicts.
Everyone knows why India is opposing this Chinese initiative, as New Delhi has always said that the mega project will violate India’s sovereignty. In a clear reference to the BIR, PM Modi told the summit that any mega connectivity project must respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries.

The problem is that the Indian premier had admitted that the interaction between various countries changed the definition of geography in the modern electronic era. As a result, it would not be a ‘correct’ decision to explain the concept of sovereignty on the basis of geography. Such a move may leave India alone. When China, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Russia will co-operate with each other to boost multilateral trade ties, will it be possible for India to boost trade ties with these countries at bilateral level?
National sovereignty is a serious and sensitive issue, but it’s equally important to achieve long-term economic goals. We can hope that the next SCO meetings will resolve this issue and find a harmony between national interest and global interest.

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