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BRICS and BIMSTEC summits: India's focus on terror, but others differ

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 18 October 2016, 22:47 IST

Terror continues to be the primary focus of India's diplomatic community, as it faces the daunting task of building a consensus on the issue, especially in the face of a reluctant China.

A day after the successful completion of the BRICS and BIMSTEC Outreach summits in Goa, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj again launched a scathing attack, albeit without naming Pakistan.

"There is a developing consensus that it cannot be business as usual. We must be prepared to extract costs for those who sponsor and support terrorists, who provide them sanctuary, and who, despite their own claimed victimhood, continue to make the false distinction between good and bad terrorists," Swaraj said in her keynote address at the BRICS Media Forum in New Delhi.

Differences to the fore

Detailing the importance of the BIMSTEC Outreach Summit, Swaraj pointed out how BIMSTEC member nations were focussed on "visualising a prosperous collective future", and that "Members of BIMSTEC - Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand - today represent the polar opposite of a terrorism-promoting polity."

However, the other member nations, expectedly, seemed not in sync with India's position. A senior official admitted as much while narrating how a Chinese official had pointed out how the India media seemed obsessed only with terrorism.

The official, however, said, that since India is the affected country, it needs to continue with the diplomatic push. "If you don't do it then, who would?" the official asked, adding that the issue would have been pushed even if there were no BRICS Summit at this time.

Both the BRICS Goa Declaration and the BIMSTEC Leaders' Retreat Outcome documents mention terror, but it is the latter which uses stronger language.

The Goa Declaration, for example doesn't talk about 'cross-border terror'.

"If you are looking for the word 'cross-border', I don't think you (will) find it. But looks at the ideas," Amar Sinha, secretary, economic relations, told the media while detailing the paragraphs on terror in the Goa Declaration.

"(When it comes to) Pakistan-based terrorist groups and cross-border terror, we are the victims. The fact is that they have not reached South Africa and Brazil," Sinha said. "But the fact that there is a mothership, and there are modules which are connected to the mothership, that realisation is there globally. There is a huge volume of literature in English, I don't know about Russian."

Russian and Chinese views

While Russian President Vladimir Putin did mention the need to fight this menace, his focus was more on ISIS, Syria et al, where Russia is currently involved in direct military action. Chinese President Xi Jinping, on the other hand, spoke about a multi-pronged approach, which deals with "both symptoms and the root causes".

The next day, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson pointed out that it was not right to link any country, ethnicity, or religion to terror.

"Everyone knows that India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism. Pakistan has made huge efforts and great sacrifices in fighting terrorism. I think the international community should respect this," the spokesperson, Hua Chunying, reportedly said.

A senior Indian official pointed out that while China may not be a victim of cross-border terror emanating from Pakistan, unlike India, it is wary of Uighur groups in the restive Xinjiang province.

The Chinese have been long pressuring Pakistan to act against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which was getting trained in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The linkages of the ETIM to the Al Qaeda and other regional terror outfits is well documented. Pakistan had lately claimed that it wiped out all ETIM members during its Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Similarly, another former diplomat pointed out how things could go out of hand in Uzbekistan, especially after the death of Islam Karimov. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, too, has linkages to all the major terror outfits, and is known to operate in Afghanistan, even as many of its operatives have also been arrested in countries like Russia.

Moreover, at the heart of the terror debate is the worsening situation in Afghanistan and the fears of the Taliban coming back to power. This is something which is making the Russians wary, for it has the potential to destabilise Central Asia. Earlier, in a first, the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek was recently the target of a suicide bombing.

Reflecting on WWII

Interestingly, terror and trade aside, BRICS countries differed on another intriguing point, which is now part of the Goa Declaration. BRICS countries "resolutely reject the continued attempts to misrepresent the results of World War II", when the alliances have drastically changed.

US President Barack Obama and other allied nations, according to a report, had kept themselves away from the anniversary celebrations and parades of the victory over the anti-fascist alliance by both the Russians and the Chinese.

The point to note is that this was part of the Ufa declaration last year as well, when Russia hosted the BRICS Summit.

"Last year, it was included for it was the 70th anniversary," pointed out an Indian official, while adding that the logic of it being a part of the declaration again was questioned, since it had no relevance for India.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 18 October 2016, 22:47 IST