Terrorism — especially the threat posed by Pakistani militants to India — dominated the recently concluded BRICS summit at Goa.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Pakistan as the ‘mother-ship’ of terrorism in South Asia and advocated its diplomatic isolation by the international community.
Although other BRICS members agreed on the need to counter terrorism as a global threat, they remained silent on the problem faced by India from Pakistan-backed terrorist groups.
A meeting of the seven BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Scientific and Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries, which include Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal, too debated terrorism and supported India.
But a day after the BRICS summit ended, China responded to Modi’s remarks by saying it opposes the linking of any specific country, region or religion to terrorism. Beijing said Pakistan was as much a victim of terrorism as India and that Islamabad had made big ‘sacrifices’ while fighting the menace.
China’s response seemed to imply that Modi was perhaps politically motivated in his attack on Pakistan. China’s reaction, though predictable being an “all-weather ally” of Pakistan, came as a setback to Modi’s drive to diplomatically isolate Pakistan. It also hinted at the growing tensions between India and China.
Responding to Modi’s “mother-ship” of terror remarks, Islamabad accused him of deliberately misleading the international community and trying to cover up India’s human rights violations in Kashmir. He said the Kashmiris could not be accused of terrorism, they were only demanding their right to self-determination.
The argument raised the question of what constitutes terrorism and whether the so called “freedom struggle” could be designated as “terrorist”. A proper definition of the term was called for but participants at BRICS summit ignored the issue.
Ideally, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation needs to work out a proper definition of terrorism in the regional context and formulate a strategy of regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism linked with drugs-trafficking, money-laundering, arms-trafficking and espionage, which are designated as multinational systemic crimes in the literature.
There is thus considerable scope for regional cooperation between India and Pakistan in the fight against terrorism. They have only to rise to the occasion.
Undeterred by China’s silence on Pakistan, Modi claimed in his concluding statement at Goa that BRICS states viewed that “those who nurture, shelter, support and sponsor such forces of violence and terror are as much a threat to us as terrorists themselves.”
But the formal Summit Declaration of 109 paragraphs does not reflect this consensus.
The proceedings of the BRICS summit in Goa exposed important differences among India, China and Russia and also raised issues regarding the role of some non-participating countries such as Pakistan and the United States.
Relations between India and Pakistan worsened under the Modi regime. After assuming office in 2014, he made it clear that Pakistan must vacate PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) illegally seized by it in 1947.
At the Goa summit, he tried to draw the attention of BRICS members to the Indo-Pak conflict without explaining its relevance to the summit discussions.
Pakistan cannot be diplomatically isolated from the international community as desired by Modi since many countries need Pakistan’s cooperation in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
During bilateral talks on the sidelines of BRICS, India sought China’s support to gain entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group despite sending out wrong signals by entering into a military relationship with the United States directed against China over the South China Sea issue.
India’s claim over PoK affects China’s multi-billion dollar investment in the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor with huge implications for employment generation and infrastructure development in Pakistan. India cannot afford to have two alienated neighbors.
Modi’s ‘big nation’ complex is generating problems for India’s international relations across the board and it has destabilized the security scenario in South Asia. More specifically, the people of Kashmir are paying a huge price for India’s vaulting regional and global ambitions