THE BRICS WALL OF CHINA

India Today - - DIPLOMACY -

China’s in­tran­si­gence was the defin­ing fea­ture of the Goa sum­mit In­dia’s per­for­mance at the Goa BRICS sum­mit, which it chaired, has to be eval­u­ated in the light of the real­i­ties of the group­ing. BRICS, which be­gan as a geopo­lit­i­cal project, has failed to be­come more co­her­ent in­ter­nally. To achieve its ob­jec­tives, es­pe­cially the pro­mo­tion of mul­ti­po­lar­ity, BRICS should have ac­tively cul­ti­vated more in­ter­nal sol­i­dar­ity at a time when the US had not re­cov­ered from its fi­nan­cial woes and do­mes­tic sen­ti­ment against fur­ther mil­i­tary en­tan­gle­ments abroad was grow­ing, the Eu­ro­zone was in trou­ble and the EU it­self was in some dis­ar­ray af­ter Brexit and the refugee cri­sis. On the con­trary, di­ver­gences within BRICS have grown in crit­i­cal ar­eas, loos­en­ing fur­ther the mor­tar bind­ing it to­gether.

China has be­gun to openly op­pose In­dia in sev­eral sen­si­tive ar­eas, such as In­dia’s NSG mem­ber­ship and the is­sue of ter­ror­ism. China’s po­si­tion that In­dia’s non-NPT sta­tus makes it in­el­i­gi­ble for NSG mem­ber­ship is in­tended to ex­pose the lim­its of US ac­com­mo­da­tion of In­dia on nu­clear is­sues, be­sides keep­ing a strate­gic rein on In­dia. China is also un­der­lin­ing that build­ing Pak­istan against In­dia and deny­ing In­dia any diplo­matic ad­van­tage over Pak­istan in any forum is in China’s na­tional in­ter­est. De­spite Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi rais­ing the is­sue of our NSG mem­ber­ship with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping more than once, the Goa sum­mit saw no change in China’s po­si­tion.

China is shield­ing Pak­istan from ex­ter­nal pres­sure to act against ter­ror­ist groups tar­get­ing In­dia. It is treat­ing the ter­ror­ism is­sue be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan as a bi­lat­eral one and not an in­ter­na­tional prob­lem. De­spite pres­sure by us, China did not feel diplo­mat­i­cally obliged to soften its ob­struc­tive stand on the is­sue in the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. It could have taken cover un­der UN res­o­lu­tions and the grow­ing in­ter­na­tional con­sen­sus to com­bat ter­ror­ism col­lec­tively by agree­ing to a for­mu­la­tion that could have given some sat­is­fac­tion to In­dia, but it chose not to do so. It ob­vi­ously as­sumes that it can deal with po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences and eco­nomic ties on sep­a­rate tracks, be­liev­ing that In­dia needs ac­cess to China’s fi­nan­cial re­sources to fuel its growth.

The Goa Dec­la­ra­tion is ex­pan­sive on ter­ror­ism in other parts of the world or gener­i­cally. Iron­i­cally, it speaks of “the re­lent­less pur­suit against ter­ror­ist groups so des­ig­nated by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil…” and men­tions the “sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties in Afghanistan”, but point­edly omits any ref­er­ence to ter­ror­ism di­rected specif­i­cally at a BRICS mem­ber. Worse, it con­demns “the re­cent sev­eral at­tacks, against some BRICS coun­tries, in­clud­ing that in In­dia”, with­out la­belling them as “ter­ror­ist” at­tacks. In­dia’s fail­ure as host to get a bet­ter for­mu­la­tion points to China’s sturdy op­po­si­tion to recog­nis­ing In­dia as a vic­tim of ter­ror­ism to pre­vent any fin­ger-point­ing at Pak­istan.

The geopo­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences within BRICS are il­lus­trated by the ab­sence in the Goa Dec­la­ra­tion of any ref­er­ence to OBOR—Pres­i­dent Xi’s flag­ship project that Rus­sia sup­ports—or the South China Sea is­sues on which, again, Rus­sia is lend­ing sup­port to China’s op­po­si­tion to the Hague rul­ing. For In­dia, clearly, both OBOR and South China Sea ten­sions are as­pects of China’s po­lit­i­cal, mil­i­tary and eco­nomic mus­cle-flex­ing that raise geopo­lit­i­cal con­cerns. In­dia’s greatly im­prov­ing ties with the US at a time when US-Rus­sia re­la­tions have plum­meted and China con­fronting the US in the western Pa­cific add to the geopo­lit­i­cal con­fu­sion within BRICS. Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary over­tures to Pak­istan add to the mud­dle. The Goa Dec­la­ra­tion once again avoids giv­ing sup­port to In­dia’s (and Brazil’s) can­di­da­ture for per­ma­nent mem­ber­ship of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. Once again, it is China’s hand at work.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi was right in his un­prece­dented philip­pic against Pak­istan (with­out nam­ing it) at the BRICS sum­mit—and at the BIMSTEC gath­er­ing—on its ter­ror­ist mis­deeds. This mes­sage was ad­dressed as much to China and Rus­sia as to Pak­istan that for In­dia, ter­ror­ism is a core is­sue. The de­ci­sion to in­vite BIMSTEC lead­ers to the BRICS sum­mit was a diplo­matic mas­ter­stroke to iso­late Pak­istan un­der China’s nose and stim­u­late our Act East pol­icy. The BIMSTEC out­come doc­u­ment is much more sup­port­ive of In­dia’s con­cerns on ter­ror­ism. The Goa Dec­la­ra­tion has 109 paras com­pared with less than 75 at For­taleza and Ufa. In­dia or­gan­ised 112 events as part of BRICS ac­tiv­i­ties and took 24 key ini­tia­tives, many more than in the case of Brazil and Rus­sia. If BRICS is to be judged by ac­tiv­i­ties and not re­sults, the group­ing can claim suc­cess. That we or­gan­ised a BRICS Well­ness Forum says it all. THE GOA DEC­LA­RA­TION AVOIDS SUP­PORT­ING IN­DIA’S AND BRAZIL’S CAN­DI­DA­TURE FOR PER­MA­NENT MEM­BER­SHIP OF UNSC. IT’S CHINA’S HAND AT WORK

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