Avoiding embarrassment for Centre, SCO agrees to pull down English version
A major embarrassment for the government was averted on Tuesday, after the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) agreed to pull down the English version of the Qingdao Declaration signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, which appeared to show that all “member states”, including India, had supported and endorsed China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The wording of the paragraph in the statement in English, which differed from the official versions in Russian and Chinese on the SCO website, would have marked a big departure from the Modi government’s stand on the Chinese connectivity project, which India is staunchly opposed to.
According to the version available online on Tuesday, the statement said, “Reaffirming their support for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” of China, Kazhakstan, Kryrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, “the Member States express appreciation for the joint efforts taken towards its implementation”.
India, the only member state which is not part of the BRI, has publicly criticised it.
Senior former diplomats that The Hindu spoke to termed the SCO declaration in English a case of “sloppy drafting” and “an oversight”, and called for the External Affairs Ministry to take note of the statement lest it became a reflection of the Indian position for the future.
“It is for the MEA to decide if they should insist on an amendment,” said former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, adding that the Ministry should opt for a “statement in clarification”.
The Hindu also contacted the Ministry spokesperson’s office, which then contacted the SCO and had the faulty version of the document deleted from the website. “It was an unofficial translation that should not have been there in the first place,” said a source, adding that the SCO secretariat agreed to delete it when the error was “pointed out to them”.
However, the SCO secretariat did not clarify when it might upload the corrected version. Until Tuesday evening, the MEA website, which records all bilateral and multilateral documents signed by the government, had not uploaded any version of the SCO Qingdao declaration, released on Sunday.