Having successfully isolated Pakistan in the region by getting all neighbours to stay away from SAARC and with no world power opposing the surgical strikes, New Delhi has reason for a measure of quiet satisfaction. One reality check, however, has come from the BRICS summit in Goa. Having chosen it as a stage from which to push forward the campaign to isolate Pakistan on terrorism, India ran into a wall of sorts. Chinese president Xi Jinping called for “political solutions” to “regional hotspots” and a multi-pronged approach to address “symptoms and root causes” of terror, while Russian President Vladimir Putin avoided any reference to terrorism. The 109-paragraph BRICS declaration specifically named the Islamic State but did not mention “cross-border terrorism”, leaving out terror outfits that have struck India: Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. The message from the big two in BRICS, Russia and China, is clear: Terror from Pakistan is a problem no doubt, but how to deal with terror targeted at India is India’s problem, first and last.
The reasons lie, as always, in the realities of geopolitics. China and Russia see a threat emerging from their nationals serving with Islamic State and al Qaeda, as the so-called Caliphate is destroyed in Iraq and Syria, and relocates to Afghanistan. They are seeking to build up the Afghan Taliban as a counterweight, and they see Pakistan as a valuable partner. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is not just a landmark in relations between the two countries, it is a bilateral agreement of enormous geo-strategic significance.
There will be conflicting interests within any grouping, and there are in BRICS. Yet there are also areas of unanimity for New Delhi to build on. For instance, after India-Russia talks on Saturday, the joint statement emphasised the “commonality of positions”. “India and Russia recognise the threat posed by terrorism, and believe that the full implementation of the relevant UNSC resolutions, the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy without application of any double standards or selectivity, will be instrumental in countering this challenge,” it said, alluding to the UNSCR 1267 sanctions committee, which proscribes LeT and Jaish. With China, the common ground is expanding even as Pakistan remains the elephant in the room. On Monday, the BIMSTEC countries endorsed India’s stand on Pak-sponsored terror though they did not name Pakistan. The surgical strikes may have been accomplished with neatness and precision along the LoC, but in their aftermath, India’s diplomacy will have to pick out a careful path in a wider, untidy terrain.