India-Pak handshake and SCO summit

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“People should have literary and cultural taste and should not bomb hotels.”

– Upamanyu Chatterjee

Pakistan’s support to terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of India is seen as the major stumbling block in normalizing ties between the two countries, who have fought four wars since 1947. Pakistan denies India’s charges that it supports any anti-India terrorist group, citing itself too as a victim of terrorism. Official talks between the two countries have been suspended since 2013 and many attempts to restart the dialogue since Narendra Modi took office in May 2014 have come to naught. The two countries, recently, have been looking at putting in place some humanitarian steps that could possibly lead to an eventual thaw in ties perhaps after the 25 July polls in Pakistan. Modi shook hands with Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain after leaders of a China and Russia-led Eurasian bloc signed a series of agreements aimed at boosting cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) grouping at Qingdao last week. This was the first summit since India and Pakistan were admitted as full members of the bloc. There is no denying that the SCO has assumed even greater importance with the entry of India and Pakistan as it will have greater implications as far as peace and stability across the region is concerned. Modi and Hussain attended the summit for the first time after their entry.

In keeping out of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and signing an agreement on sharing of hydrological data on the Brahmaputra river and another on exporting rice following a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, India kept its interests safe in this year’s SCO Summit. Out of eight members only India was against BRI. Other member countries reaffirmed their support to the initiative to expand economic connectivity. India’s refusal was prodded by a trust deficit. Modi was emphatic in saying that trust should be built before the BRI takes place. One of the reasons for India not taking part in the BRI, may be that Chinese loans for projects under this have high interest rates and terms and conditions are not transparent. Modi, in fact, through his speech at the summit tried to drive home the message that India would back all such projects that are inclusive, transparent and respect the territorial sovereignty of nations. Modi made it clear that New Delhi is willing to work with Beijing for greater regional stability and development, but on its own terms.

For India, much of the attention was on Modi’s meeting with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the SCO Summit. There has been skepticism about the two agreements signed between India and China – a memorandum of understanding on the Chinese side providing hydrological data on the Brahmaputra river in flood season from May 15 to October 15 every year and an amendment to a 2006 protocol for exporting rice from India to China to include the export of non-Basmati varieties of rice from India. But if one looks at it rationally it is evident that India kept its interests safe. While the agreement on sharing Brahmaputra will benefit India, the one on rice exports will help the farmers

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