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PRETORIA: Zero tolerance for terror and unilateralism – this was the overarching message that has emanated from the BRICS Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Pretoria, setting the tone for the July …Read More
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.
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.
Moving beyond Doklam, India and China have to, therefore, fashion a new alphabet of BRICS centred on “Business, Regional Integration, Innovation, Culture and Statesmanship.”
In a triumph of Indian diplomacy and a sign of an evolving entente with China, BRICS countries have collectively backed India’s concerns over cross-border terrorism, with a BRICS joint declaration naming for the first time Pakistan-based anti-India terror groups, including LeT, JeM and the Haqqani Network.
The leaders of India, China, Brazil, Russia and South Africa held discussions on a wide array of cross-cutting threats in the coastal city of Xiamen. Jointly combating terror figured prominently in the talks.
At the end of the meeting, the BRICS leaders came out with a joint declaration, which addresses India’s concerns over cross-border terrorism.
“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.
In the picturesque coastal city of Xiamen, better known for its noodles, entrepreneurial drive and touristy beaches, terror is not what you think about, but when the leaders of BRICS countries meet for their 9th annual summit here on September 14, enhancing counter-terror cooperation will be on top of the agenda.
By and large, there is a robust BRICS consensus on collectively dealing with the scourge of terrorism, but Pakistan-origin terrorism continues to be a source of dissonance between India and China. At the last BRICS summit in Goa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched a blistering attack on Pakistan and sought BRICS support in isolating Islamabad for its dubious role in using terror as an instrument of state policy. But he didn’t succeed in getting a reference to Pakistan included in the Goa joint statement, largely due to Beijing’s fierce objections. This time round, China has gone a step further by pre-setting the agenda by making it clear that Pakistan’s role in fostering and sheltering terrorism is not “an appropriate subject appropriate topic to be discussed at BRICS summit.”
Buoyed by Trump’s frontal expose of Pakistan’s role in fomenting terrorism in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to highlight India’s concerns on Pakistan’s role in cross-border terrorism, at the Xiamen summit. But given the all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan, Beijing is unlikely to allow any reference to Pakistan-based terrorism except in general terms about safe havens for terror.
In his speech at the BRICS Business Forum, which opened in Xiamen on September 3, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a holistic approach to fighting terrorism. “I am convinced that as long as we take a holistic approach to fighting terrorism in all its forms, and address both its symptoms and root causes, terrorists will have no place to hide,” he said.
Indian diplomacy experienced an inflection point following the terrorist attack on September 18, 2016, at the Army encampment at Uri. Determined to raise costs for Pakistan to counter its strategy of bleeding India by a thousand cuts, the Indian government mounted an international campaign to paint Pakistan as a state-sponsor of global terrorism and to ‘isolate’ the country in the international community.
India made Pakistan’s state-sponsorship of terrorism, without naming it, a key element of its diplomatic agenda for the 8th BRICS summit hosted by it in Goa on October 15-16; the event also coincided with India-Russia and India-Brazil summit meetings. To deny Pakistan the chokehold on regional integration as well as to further ‘isolate’ it in the region, a BRICS’ outreach with the BIMSTEC at the summit level was organised. In all his interactions, Prime Minister Modi made a clear linkage between terrorism and economic prosperity, underlining Pakistan’s official complicity which casts a dark shadow on countries as well as on multilateral efforts to promote socio-economic progress. In his press statement, at the end of the annual India-Russia summit between PM Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said Russia’s “clear stand on the need to combat terrorism mirrors our own.”
Prime Minister’s remarks on terrorism, at the concluding session of BRICS summit, were aimed at Pakistan when he declared that combating terrorism, “including cross-border terrorism and its supporters”, will be a key BRICS priority. The Goa Declaration, issued by the summit leaders, contains the key elements of India’s counterterrorism narrative but is less direct on the issue of isolation.
The BIMSTEC Outcome Document is even more satisfactory in terms of India’s counter-terrorism diplomacy.
Aiming to impose costs on Pakistan for pursuing its ‘low cost’ strategy, Indian diplomacy has widened the diplomatic and military space, in its bilateral relations with Pakistan, to ratchet up the pressure especially as focused military action to Pakistani terrorist provocations has not been ruled out. Against the backdrop of incandescent international anger against terrorism, Pakistan cannot misread the signals originating from Goa.
The 8th BRICS summit ended on a high note with the birth of new institutions and initiatives like a credit rating agency which is set to provide greater strategic traction and cohesion to this grouping of emerging powers. In many ways, the Goa summit was a festival of ideas as many of India-backed initiatives were endorsed and found reflection in an all-encompassing 109-para Goa Declaration.
Sustainable institution building was the mantra that animated wide-ranging discussions between the leaders of India, China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa on October 16, with the five countries agreeing to set up a credit rating agency for emerging powers, BRICS Agriculture Research Platform and BRICS Railways Research Network and BRICS Sports Council.
The 8th BRICS summit was also marked by a striking convergence of views on the imperative need to jointly combat terrorism, with the joint declaration emphatically stating that states should not allow their territory to be used for terrorism, a veiled reference to Pakistan.
India tried hard to put explicit references to the Uri attack and cross-border terrorism – a shorthand for Pakistan’s use of terror against India – but it seems Pakistan’s powerful friend China was not in favour of naming and shaming in the joint declaration. India would have liked the Goa Declaration to specifically mention anti-India terror outfits like Jaish-e-Moahammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Muzahideen, but in the end it was decided to focus on firming up a broad architecture of counter-terror cooperation in the BRICS.
The Goa Action Plan has raised the bar for invigorating intra-BRICS cooperation across the spectrum, and should silence sceptics who are prone to scoff at the BRICS as a glorified talk shop. The BRICS is not only talking big, but is also thinking big, and walking the talk.
“In our own region, terrorism poses a grave threat to peace, security and development. Tragically, the mothership of terrorism is a country in India’s neighbourhood. Terror modules around the world …Read More