RILED by Islamabad’s global outreach on Kashmir, New Delhi is planning to isolate Pakistan in the global arena on the issue of terrorism.
Top government sources told The Indian Express that Pakistan will be excluded from the BRICS regional outreach this time, to be held in Goa on October 15-16. “Pakistan will not be part of the regional outreach,” said sources.
India will also raise the issue of terrorism with the international community at the G-20 summit in China next week, followed by the NAM summit in Venezuela and the UNGA in September-end.
BRICS has a tradition of having an outreach event with the region where the host country is located. At Fortaleza in Brazil, Latin American countries were called for an outreach in 2014, which was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first multilateral outing. In 2015, Russia had invited all the Central Asian countries for an outreach event in Ufa.
This time, instead of the SAARC countries, which includes Pakistan, the government has decided to invite the BIMSTEC countries.
This is a significant change of approach since Prime Minister Modi’s initial days after assuming office, when he had invited all SAARC leaders, including Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, for the oath-taking ceremony.
BIMSTEC stands for the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and includes Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
“The government has decided to call the regional countries under the rubric of BIMSTEC. While that does not include Pakistan, it will include other countries in the region,” a source said.
While the aim is to isolate Pakistan, the two neighbouring countries that are not part of BIMSTEC are Afghanistan and Maldives. Sources said there is a proposal to invite the two as “special invitees” or “observers”.
Officials said that India’s latest pitch has been that Pakistan is the “prime perpetrator of terrorism in the region” — an assessment shared by most countries in the region. The phrase “prime perpetrator of terrorism in the region” was mentioned in Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar’s second letter to Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, which was delivered last week.
The idea, according to sources, is to portray Pakistan as the “trouble-maker” and a “stumbling block” in the region’s development.
Besides terrorism emanating from Pakistan affecting the entire region, New Delhi will cite Islamabad blocking the SAARC motor vehicles agreement at the Kathmandu summit in 2014. India had to find a creative way to circumvent the blocked proposal, and ensure connectivity through the BBIN corridor (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India Nepal).
However, it will raise the issue of Afghanistan being left out of the connectivity loop, owing to Pakistan’s diffidence on allowing trucks and vehicles to come to India.
Sources said the decision to isolate Pakistan has gathered momentum after Islamabad upped the ante on Kashmir, lobbying with the international community, including P-5 countries, OIC and the UN. As per latest reports, it has decided to send 22 envoys to different countries to convey its side of the Kashmir story.
Since the BRICS summit will be attended by leaders from China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa, New Delhi is mindful of the resistance from expected quarters — Beijing. But, with the restive Xinjiang province and its projects in Afghanistan bothering the Chinese, India will push its case with the help of other affected countries in the region and Russia.
Of the leaders from BIMSTEC countries, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and Myanmar’s foreign minister and state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi have confirmed their presence at the BRICS outreach. “With more friends and friendly countries in the room, we are hopeful of a good outcome on the pressing issues of terrorism and the challenges blocking the development of the region,” a source told The Indian Express.
Sources said that since the SAARC summit is scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November 9-10, the BRICS summit a month earlier may well turn out to be the agenda-setting meet, too. “The language and discussions in the summit will be aimed at setting the tone and tenor on the critical issues of terrorism and connectivity ahead of the SAARC summit,” the source said.