XIAMEN: Doklam is out, BRICS is in. In the picturesque coastal city of Xiamen, better known for its delicious noodles, entrepreneurial drive and pretty beaches, the sound and fury that accompanied the standoff between India and China on the Doklam plateau appeared a distant echo as India and China set differences aside to bolster the edifice of BRICS. The focus was on convergences and looking ahead, rather than nursing grouse and conspiracy theories as China joined hands with India and other BRICS countries to shape the strongest ever BRICS joint declaration on terrorism.
It was a triumph of Indian diplomacy, but it was also a reflection of the pivotal role of BRICS in fighting common threats and promoting regional stability. The 71-paragraph Xiamen Declaration, if implemented even partially, could be a potential game-changer in strengthening the counter-narrative of emerging powers on a host of geopolitical crises and shaping a new global governance architecture that crystallises aspirations of developing countries.
The major takeaway, from India’s point of view, was a robust convergence on the scourge of terrorism that is proliferating in new guises across the region and the world. Shedding hesitations of the past, BRICS countries have collectively backed India’s concerns over cross-border terrorism, with a BRICS joint declaration naming for the first time Pakistan-based virulently anti-India terror groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish e-Mohamed JeM and Haqqani Network. “We deplore all terrorist attacks worldwide, including attacks in BRICS countries, and condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations wherever committed and by whomsoever and stress that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism,” the Xiamen Declaration said.
Alluding to the fragile and deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the declaration said: “We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH, Al-Qaida and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.”
The explicit mention of anti-India terror outfits, supported by Pakistan, in the Xiamen joint declaration is significant as China had opposed the inclusion of these terror organisations in the Goa summit declaration last year. The inclusion of Pakistan-based terror groups has come as a surprise to analysts and BRICS observers here as Beijing had cautioned that Pakistan’s role in terrorism was not “an appropriate subject” for the BRICS summit.
The reasons for China supporting India’s concerns over terror emanating from these outfits are not clear, but informed sources indicated that it was part of a broader post-Doklam understanding between India and China. One possible explanation could also be Beijing’s growing anxieties about terrorism, and its vulnerability to extremist forces.
Unlike the last summit in Goa, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched a blistering attack on Pakistan by branding it as “the mothership of terrorism,” this time round there was no mention of Pakistan or terrorism in his plenary speech. However, in the restricted meeting of BRICS leaders, PM Modi had vigorously advocated a joint strategy for BRICS counter-terror cooperation encompassing all critical areas, including intelligence sharing, de-radicalization and money laundering. In the end, however, it’s the results that matter, and thus the joint statement on terrorism, with LeT and JeM on the BRICS radar screen, surely would be immensely gratifying for India. This joint statement underscores that quiet diplomacy often works more effectively, rather than megaphone diplomacy.
Moving beyond terrorism, the Xiamen summit also marks a crucial junction in the evolution of the BRICS grouping as a powerful forum for driving transformation of emerging and developing countries. Against the backdrop of the continued Western dominance of the world order, development cooperation and enhanced partnership in kindred areas of technology and innovation among BRICS countries will help create a more symmetrical world. In the city of Xi Jinping, where China’s Core Leader served a transformative stint as vice-mayor thirty two years ago, the focus on innovation and new economy was but natural.
In this regard, both PM Modi and Xi Jinping spoke in the same language. “Technology and innovation are the foundations of the next generation of global growth and transformation. A strong BRICS partnership on innovation and digital economy can help spur growth, promote transparency and support the Sustainable Development Goals,” said PM Modi. Xi Jinping underscored that economic cooperation, underpinned by innovation, is the foundation of the BRICS mechanism.
Another important takeaway of the Xiamen summit was the consolidation of the BRICS role as a bulwark against the rising walls of protectionism and regressive rhetoric that have gained a new salience in the wake of the Donald Trump presidency in the US and the rise of alt-right economic nationalism in some European countries. The joint declaration underlines the importance of BRICS coordination in improving global economic governance and in promoting an open, inclusive and balanced economic globalization. In this regard, BRICS institution-building and enhanced trade and investment will play a crucial role. The four documents signed on September 4 in Xiamen are pointers to increased dovetailing of development and economic cooperation among BRICS countries. These included BRICS Action Agenda on Economic Cooperation, BRICS Action Plan for Innovation Cooperation (2017-2020), Strategic Framework of BRICS Customs Cooperation and MoU between the BRICS Business Council and the NDB on Strategic Cooperation.
Another Golden Decade?
Looking ahead, both PM Modi and President Xi Jinping have spoken eloquently and convincingly about ushering in “another golden decade” for BRICS, but the key to unlocking the potential of that golden decade will lie in rescuing BRICS from Doklam-like conflicts which could derail not just BRICS, but the larger promise of an Asian century. The resolution of the Doklam crisis paved the way for a reasonably successful BRICS summit in Xiamen, but India and China need to make serious and sustained efforts to start anew and build a largely harmonious and future-looking relationship, without glossing over differences. It’s time, therefore, for a reality check. “Given difference in national conditions, history and cultures, it is only natural we may have some differences in pursuing our cooperation,” he said. “However, with strong faith in cooperation and enhancing collaboration, the BRICS countries can achieve steady progress in our cooperation,” President Xi said at the summit. Similarly, PM Modi underlined that BRICS leadership will be crucial in driving “this transformation” of the emerging world. “If we as BRICS can set the agenda in these areas, the world will call this its Golden Decade.” Moving beyond Doklam, India and China have to, therefore, fashion a new alphabet of BRICS centred on “Business, Regional Integration, Innovation, Culture and Statesmanship.”
(Manish Chand is CEO-Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network and India and World magazine. He is in Xiamen to cover the BRICS summit)
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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