After China Border Clash, India's Modi Calls for 'Respecting…Territorial Integrity' at Event With Xi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to lob oblique criticism at both China and Pakistan as he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping shared a virtual stage for the first time since this summer's bloody border conflict in the Himalayas.

Speaking from New Delhi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on Tuesday, Modi addressed seven other heads of state including host Vladimir Putin and called on the bloc to respect "one another's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The prime minister also urged Shanghai Pact partners to join him in further discussions about eradicating economic and social suffering.

Modi, who called India "the world's largest vaccine-producing country," vowed to help "the whole [of] humanity" in the COVID-19 crisis, according to The Times of India.

However, the Indian leader also had some choice words for neighbors Imran Khan of Pakistan and Xi of China, who appeared at the same event—albeit virtually—for the first time since Indian and Chinese soldiers clashed violently in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control.

"It is unfortunate that there are unnecessary attempts to bring bilateral issues in the SCO agenda, which is a violation of SCO Charter and Shanghai spirit," Modi said in an apparent dig at Khan following recent plans to declare a disputed Kashmir territory a fifth province of Pakistan.

"Such efforts are contrary to the spirit of consensus and cooperation that defines SCO," Modi said.

The 20th annual SCO summit took place amid an ongoing armed stalemate along the Sino-Indian border. Both armies have come to the table for talks and promised to "exercise restraint," according to a joint statement released on Sunday.

However, neither side has disengaged from the region, where 20 Indian soldiers died and an unconfirmed number of Chinese border troops were killed or injured in June.

Echoing sentiments often heard by the Chinese foreign ministry on issues such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, Modi said: "India has strong cultural and historical ties with Shanghai Cooperation Organisation countries. India believes that to enhance connectivity it is important that we move forward while respecting one another's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Xi's address included remarks that could be interpreted in a similar way, but other comments appeared to be aimed at Pacific powers including the United States.

"History has proven, and will continue to prove, that good neighborliness will prevail over a beggar-thy-neighbor approach," Xi said from Beijing, according to Chinese state media outlet Xinhua.

"Mutually beneficial cooperation will replace zero-sum game, and multilateralism will win over unilateralism," he added.

The eight SCO nations of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan must work together to "foster a sound security environment" in the region, the Chinese premier urged.

"We need to firmly support countries concerned in their law-based efforts to steadily advance major domestic political agenda," he added. "Firmly support countries in safeguarding political security and social stability, and firmly oppose interference by external forces in the domestic affairs of SCO members under whatever pretexts."

With vocal support from Putin, Xi decried the "politicizing" of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the role of vaccines.

Modi Putin Xi
File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R). Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images