Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday said that the entry of India and Pakistan into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) would bolster its strength. He was welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain to the eight-member grouping as the two leaders attended the summit for the first time after the enighbours were accorded membership last year.

Prime Minister Modi and Pakistan President Hussain are attending the summit for the first time after both countries were inducted as members of the Beijing-based SCO last year.

Xi, also host of the 18th SCO summit, in his opening remarks said that the presence of PM Modi and Pakistan President Hussain at the meeting was “of great historic significance”.

The SCO enjoys strong vitality and momentum of cooperation, Xi said, attributing the organisation’s standing to the Shanghai Spirit. He called for the pursuit of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security.

“We should reject the Cold War mentality and confrontation between blocs and oppose the practices of seeking absolute security of oneself at the expense of the security of other countries, so as to achieve security of all,” he said.

He said countries should work for promoting open and inclusive cooperation for win-win outcomes.

“We should reject self-centered, short-sighted and closed-door policies. We should uphold WTO rules and support the multilateral trading system so as to build an open world economy,” Xi said amidst a looming trade war between China and the United States over tariffs.

Equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness between cultures should be championed, so that “we overcome cultural misunderstanding, clash and supremacy through exchanges, mutual learning and coexistence,” said Xi.

He called for adhering to extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in global governance, steadily reforming and improving the global governance system, and pushing all countries to jointly build a community with a shared future for humanity.

He called for further carrying forward the ‘Shanghai Spirit’ to surmount difficulties, defuse risks and meet challenges.

“We should uphold innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development, achieve coordinated social and economic progress of various countries and resolve issues caused by unbalanced development,” he said.

“We should bridge the gap in development and promote shared prosperity,” he said.

The SCO member states need to actively implement the 2019-2021 programme of cooperation for combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, he said. Member nations should enhance cooperation on defence security, law enforcement security and information security, Xi said.

He also called for efforts to give full play to the role of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group to facilitate peace and reconstruction in war-torn Afghanistan.

Xi said that the SCO members need to build a powerful engine to achieve common development.

“China will set up a 30-billion-yuan (USD 4.7 billion) equivalent special lending facility within the framework of the SCO Inter-bank Consortium,” Xi said.

He said in the next three years, China will provide 3,000 training opportunities of human resources development for SCO member states to enhance public understanding of and support for the SCO family.

The SCO has eight member countries which represents around 42 per cent of the world’s population and 20 per cent of the global GDP.

Besides Prime Minister Modi and President Xi, other leaders attending the summit include Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan became its members last year.

Earlier on Sunday, a restricted session had taken place which was attended by SCO members only.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit. The delegation-level talks were held in Qingdao’s Anren Hall. A series of agreements were signed between the two countries in the presence of the two leaders.

Before the meeting, Xi welcomed Modi to the summit. The two leaders were seen engaging in pleasantries as they posed for photographs. This was the first meeting between Modi and Xi since the ‘informal summit’ held in Wuhan in April, which brought an end to the frosty ties between India and China since the Doklam crisis.

Following his arrival in Qingdao, the PM met Rashid Alimov, the Secretary-General of SCO, and discussed with him ways to through which India’s participation can strengthen the bloc.

The PM is also expected to hold nearly half a dozen bilateral meetings with leaders of other SCO countries. He will participate in the Summit, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

This is the first time that India is participating in the Summit after becoming a full member.

(With inputs from PTI)