Any form of terrorism, including cross-border terrorism, is a "crime against humanity" and the menace must be dealt with unitedly, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Wednesday at an SCO meet in Tashkent, in an oblique reference to Pakistan's support to terrorist activities against India. With defence ministers of SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) member states, including Pakistan's Khawaja Muhammad Asif, listening, Singh said the grouping must work together to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and asserted that Afghan territory must not be used as launch pads for terrorist activities.

In his address, Singh also reaffirmed India's resolve to fight all forms of terrorism to make the region peaceful, secure and stable. The defence minister also expressed India's "concern" over the situation in Ukraine and noted that New Delhi supports a resolution of the crisis through talks between Moscow and Kyiv.

Singh said there is a need to strengthen ties among the SCO member states bilaterally and within the framework of the organisation on the basis of "equality, respect and mutual understanding". He also invited all SCO member states to visit India next year when New Delhi takes over the presidency of the grouping from Uzbekistan.

The SCO comprises India, China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. "Terrorism is one of the most serious challenges to global peace and security. India reiterates its resolve to fight all forms of terrorism and make the region peaceful, secure and stable," he said. "We seek to develop joint institutional capabilities with the SCO member states, which, while respecting the sensitivities of each country, create the spirit of cooperation among individuals, societies and nations," he added.

Singh asserted that terrorism in any form, including cross-border terrorism, committed by anyone and for whatever purpose, is a crime against humanity, seen as an oblique reference to Pakistan. The defence minister also voiced India's full support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan, while highlighting the need for respecting its sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, national unity and non-interference in internal affairs.

He urged all parties to encourage authorities in Afghanistan to achieve national reconciliation through dialogue and negotiation and establish a broad-based, inclusive and representative political structure in the country, according to a statement issued by the defence ministry.

Singh said that the Afghan territory must not be used to intimidate or attack any country by providing safe havens and training to terrorists and supporting their activities through financial assistance. According to the statement, the defence minister stressed on the need to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan and safeguard their fundamental rights.

He also underlined the importance of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions in this regard. Singh also threw light on India's age-old ties with SCO countries, asserting that the member states of the organisation are common stakeholders in the progress and prosperity of the region. "India accords high priority to SCO because of its unwavering belief in multilateralism. There is a need to strengthen ties with SCO member states bilaterally and within the framework of the organisation on the basis of equality, respect and mutual understanding," he said.

During the exchange of pleasantries with Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu this morning, Singh conveyed his deep appreciation and thanks for arresting in Moscow a terrorist who was planning attacks in India.

Russia's top intelligence agency said on Monday that it has detained an Islamic State terrorist from a Central Asian country who underwent special training to carry out a suicide attack against a member of India's leadership elite for the offensive comments on the Prophet.

On Ukraine, Singh said: "India is concerned about the humanitarian crisis in and around Ukraine. We have extended our support for the efforts of the UN Secretary-General, UN agencies and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide humanitarian assistance." Singh also proposed to host a workshop in India in 2023 on the theme 'Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief — Risk Mitigation and Disaster Resilient Infrastructure' for the defence ministries of SCO member states. He also suggested an annual seminar on 'Topic of Interest' among the defence think tanks of SCO countries. "We propose to organise the first such defence think tank seminar in India in 2023," he added.

The SCO is an influential economic and security bloc and has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations. India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017. India was made an observer at the SCO, which was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001, in 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping that focuses mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.