BRICS Summit: Why China and Russia did not name Pakistan on terrorism

P'M Modi has just been delivered an unhappy lesson at the just-concluded BRICS summit in Goa: though nine-tenths of geopolitics is about bluff, the critical one-tenth is about knowing when to fold.

Written by Praveen Swami | New Delhi | Updated: October 18, 2016 11:52 am
India, China, Russia, PM Modi, BRICS summit, BRICS 2016, BRICS terror talks, terrorism, Pakistan, India news, opinion, latest news, Indian express Russian President Vladimir Putin, PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (File Photo)

In 1216, Genghis Khan sent envoys to Samarkand, the capital of Ala ad-Din Muhammad II, Emperor of Khwarezm, bearing gifts of gold, jade, ivory and cloaks spun from the hair of white camels. “I know your power and the vast extent of your empire”, his letter read, “and I regard you as my most cherished son. For your part, you must know that I have conquered China and all the Turkish nations north of it; my country is an anthill of soldiers and a mine of silver, and I have no need of other lands. Therefore, I believe I have we have an equal interest in encouraging trade between our lands”.

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The imperial consensus was that Genghis Khan’s forces were too stretched to pose a threat—and Muhammad II decided to show the Khan what he thought of his peace offering. In 1218, the Khwarezm Shah killed 450 Mongol merchants, following it up with the execution of an ambassador.

Less than two years later, the Khwarezm disintegrated in the face of the Mongol assault. Genghis Khan, proclaiming himself “the flail of god”, built towers outside Samarkand’s walls with the skulls of his enemies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just been delivered an unhappy lesson at the just-concluded BRICS summit in Goa: though nine-tenths of geopolitics is about bluff, the critical one-tenth is about knowing when to fold.

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The Prime Minister proclaimed, in his closing statement at the summit, that BRICS member-states were “agreed that those who nurture, shelter, support and sponsor such forces of violence and terror are as much a threat to us as the terrorists themselves”. The BRICS 109 paragraph summit declaration, however, doesn’t have a single sentence reflecting this purported consensus—not even the words “nurture”, “shelter” or “sponsor”.

Worse, from India’s optic, the summit declaration calls for action against all United Nations-designated terrorist organisations which include the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad but names only the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s proxy, Jabhat al-Nusra—both threats to China and Russia but not to India.

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China’s President Xi Jinping, said success against terrorism made it imperative to “addresses both symptoms and root causes”—a stock-phrase Islamabad often uses to refer to the conflict over Kashmir. Russian President Vladimir Putin made no mention of terrorism emanating from Pakistan at all.

Add to this, the United States’ studied refusal to be drawn into harsh action against Pakistan and there’s a simple lesson to be drawn: less than a month after it began, the Prime Minister’s campaign to isolate Pakistan is not gaining momentum.

No one seriously disputes New Delhi’s right to punish cross border-terrorism—even Pakistan’s best-friend China offered no reproach when India struck across the Line of Control, and has been quietly counselling Pakistan to get its house-jihadists under control. However, there’s a big difference between quite counsel and public censure; Pakistan is far too useful to all the world’s big powers in a number of ways.

For one, both China and Russia, as well as Iran, see Pakistan as a potential ally in their anti-jihadist game. The Islamic State and al-Qaeda, now being slowly choked in Syria and Iraq, are likely to divert a significant portion of the resources to Afghanistan as the war against them proceeds. That means numbers of Uighur and Russian Muslim jihadists could be located close to their homelands’ borders. Beijing and Moscow will then need Islamabad’s cooperation.

Interestingly, both countries have already expanded their covert outreach to the Afghan Taliban, seeing them—rightly or wrongly—as a counterweight to the Islamic State.

Then, Moscow is increasingly skeptical about the US combatting Islamists. Last year, when Putin travelled to New York, he called for “a genuinely broad international coalition” to fight the Islamic State. His efforts to bring one about on Syria, though, have fallen apart—leaving Moscow persuaded that the United States’ war on terror is insincere and opportunistic.

Finally, New Delhi has no chips to cash in because of its dogged refusal to be embroiled in its allies’ wars. Given New Delhi’s indecision on participation in the war against the Islamic State, it is not in any position to ask Russia for a return favour on Pakistan. Nor can New Delhi credibly ask the US to jettison Pakistan when India remains, at best, a marginal provider of security in Afghanistan.

New Delhi has no real ability to project military power across its borders. Its economic influence is limited, compared to that of China or even Russia.

By contrast, Pakistan profits from being a nuisance. Its covert services have birthed toxic proxies, who can spawn savage small wars across the region. This doesn’t make Pakistan popular but it does give it influence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s failure to distinguish between performance theatre intended for audiences at home and the real business of power has caused India some embarrassment. This is a good time to learn lessons, time for a clear-eyed, unsentimental look at the problem—and for learning some painful lessons.

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  1. A
    Abhinav Gour
    Oct 17, 2016 at 6:43 pm
    The author has written the naked truth.. We saw Chinese' actual reaction on the news today. Modi is doing an excellent job but he has to keep in mind that China won't speak against Pak publicly. It supports Pak more than it supports us, no matter whatever atrocity they do. We Indians have condemned Pak actions in global arena and Modi did the same verbally , but in paper ,general consensus failed to happen ... which clearly shows that Chinais not willing to isolate Pak. Modi's declaration turned out to be different from the consensus. The world does not take into consideration the opinion of a particular nation.. it takes into account the general opinion, especially during a multilateral summit. So instead of blaming the author, think !!
    1. M
      M Ibrahim
      Oct 18, 2016 at 5:22 am
      Totally agree, if that (imaginary) surgical strike did go well, what is India waiting for? And, remember what happened the first time India (surgically) struck Mars? Or was that Pluto? Do stan a favour: keep dreaming.
      1. M
        M Ibrahim
        Oct 18, 2016 at 5:08 am
        Where do you folks bring all this concoction from? Too much Bollywood fiction has gotten into your heads. Know your destiny, and talk sense. You are not winning, and you will not win.
        1. M
          M Ibrahim
          Oct 19, 2016 at 3:53 am
          Kis dunya mein rehto ho, mian? Killing Baluchis on daily basis? Pl visit stan and see for yourself? Whereas in Kashmir, you are not even allowing the UN or foreign diplomats to visit IoK. Please, you are surely better than this.
          1. M
            M Ibrahim
            Oct 19, 2016 at 3:42 am
            Listen to Najam Sethi? Ooops, wrong advice. He is one of the last persons to be paid heed to, when it comes to stan's interests. Anyone else you'd like to suggest?
          2. K
            Oct 17, 2016 at 12:35 pm
            Modi is slaped so and failed again to isolate stan . one thing more there was no surgical strike its also bluf . read united nations observer groups report . there is only one lesson fr Indian people remember this modi will lead u to war . he is RSS ka ghunda . so what ever little bit progress India has made so far will be drowned . he should concentrate on building toilets etc
            1. B
              Oct 17, 2016 at 7:31 pm
              Mr P Swamy is not an but an absolute
              1. C
                Oct 17, 2016 at 11:33 am
                Only Indian Express lt;br/gt;and this author does not understand what is lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;MOTHER of Terrorism. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Go and ask papa or papu?
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