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Chinese Premier calls for strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation among SCO members

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BEIJING: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday made a strong pitch for greater counter-terrorism cooperation among the SCO countries to foster a secure and stable environment for development.

In his address at the virtual meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) hosted by India, Li said members of the SCO grouping should actively foster a secure and stable environment for development.

“With uncertainties and destabilising factors growing in the region, we need to work together to uphold regional peace and stability,” he said.

Counter-terrorism cooperation figured in the first of the four proposals he put forward for the progress of the eight-member organisation.

“Joint counter-terrorism exercises must continue to be held in order to forestall sabotages by terrorist, separatist and extremist forces exploiting the pandemic,” Li said.

Over the years, the SCO has developed counter terrorism force called Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) which was regarded as one of the organisation’s main strengths.

China is concerned about the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan as it apprehend regrouping of the Uighur militants under separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an al-Qaeda affiliated outfit active in China’s volatile Muslim-majority Xinjiang province which shares borders with countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We will also cooperate with Afghanistan by making full use of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group to support Afghanistan’s national reconciliation process and help it restore stability and development at an early date,” Li said.

The SCO is an economic and security bloc in which India and Pakistan were admitted as full members in 2017. Its founding members included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Li said institution-building must be strengthened, and cooperation on deradicalisation carried out to effectively address new threats and challenges such as cyber-terrorism and biosafety, and expand the breadth and depth of SCO cooperation on law enforcement and security.

He said the SCO member states need to earnestly cement the foundation for integrated development. Promoting integrated and interconnected development, “we need to leverage our complementarity and further substantiate areas of cooperation so as to set the economy on a recovery course”, he said.

Referring to China and other 14 countries signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement recently, he said that within the framework of the SCO, “we also need to improve liberalisation and facilitation of regional trade and investment, and set about putting together institutional arrangements for SCO regional economic cooperation.”

India pulled out of the RCEP last year as joining it would have resulted in fairly negative consequences for the country’s economy.

The government has said that India withdrew from the RCEP, said to be the largest free trade agreement in history, as a number of key concerns flagged by it were not addressed.

In his virtual address, Li also said, “China suggests intensifying efforts in developing the SCO University, bringing more universities and disciplines into this network and cultivating more future-oriented professionals”.

“China proposes establishing an SCO international museum alliance and signing a memorandum on the mutual translation of literary classics, with a view to promoting mutual learning among civilisations and bringing our peoples closer”, he said.

He also proposed expediting cooperation on the research and development of vaccines and drugs to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID-19 vaccines, when developed and deployed in China, will be made a global public good. This will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability,” the premier said.

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