In­dian Mo­ments At BRICS

New Delhi’s witty act on diplo­matic front left no room for Bei­jing but to China be­came a sig­na­tory to a state­ment nam­ing the ter­ror out­fits that are based in Pak­istan

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Agreed there are no vic­tors and vanquished in the world of diplo­macy, but de­ci­sive moves and grace can un­doubt­edly steal the show. At the BRICS sum­mit in Xi­a­men, Prime Min­is­ter Modi clearly emerged as the man of the mo­ment.

We don’t need to go into the de­tails and the fine print of what hap­pened pre and post the Modi-Xi bi­lat­eral talks. China be­came a sig­na­tory to a state­ment nam­ing the ter­ror out­fits that are based in Pak­istan. The BRICS dec­la­ra­tion on ter­ror­ism is more than what it says and miles ahead of what a sim­i­lar dec­la­ra­tion said in Goa. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how Is­lam­abad “havenots” and the Karachi me­dia in­ter­pret the clear pin­ning of blame for host­ing ter­ror groups.

What For­eign Sec­re­tary S Jais­hankar told and is quoted by news agency ANI clar­i­fies the In­dian po­si­tion forthrightly — there was a sense that if this re­la­tion­ship is to go for­ward, then peace and tran­quil­ity on bor­der ar­eas must be main­tained. Fair and fi­nal. Noth­ing more needs to be said on this. The fine line is drawn and the po­si­tion clear: In­dia was ready for any even­tu­al­ity at Dok­lam: sol­dier-to-sol­dier and diplo­matto-diplo­mat. The Chi­nese un­der­stood that their mil­i­tary push and shrill me­dia rhetoric won’t work.

Modi has be­come a highly re­spected leader in the eyes of com­mon Chi­nese, even if you don’t want to be­lieve it in the present at­mos­phere of mis­trust and anger. Their ea­ger­ness to en­sure that Modi doesn’t miss the BRICS sum­mit be­ing held on their soil and the words used af­ter he got there spells it all. Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s call to push for­ward Sino-In­dian ties on “the right track”, the stress on sta­ble Sino-In­dian ties as in line with the fun­da­men­tal in­ter­ests of peo­ple, declar­ing China is pre­pared to work with In­dia to seek guid­ance from the five prin­ci­ples of Panchsheel — these are not just hastily-crafted farewell cour­te­sies. A lot of diplo­matic dis­cus­sions would have gone into this. It needs pa­tient anal­y­sis keep­ing in mind the im­por­tance of form­ing a post­dol­lar new diplo­macy based on a vi­sion for bi­lat­eral re­la­tions over the next decade.

It won’t be a cake­walk into the fu­ture. Is­sues of con­cern for In­dia in­clude China’s in­creas­ing pres­ence in the Gwadar port, the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor and the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive that passes through Pak­istan-Oc­cu­pied Kash­mir. There’s also the is­sue of Pak­istan’s home-grown ter­ror­ists, whom China chose to shield from be­ing pe­nal­ized by the UN. Trade im­bal­ance and Chi­nese pro­tec­tion­ism is an­other aspect that causes un­ease and was very can­didly raised when Nir­mala Sithara­man was in Bei­jing in July.

On the other hand, the Chi­nese are do­ing busi­ness in In­dia in al­most ev­ery sec­tor - from so­lar en­ergy to smart cities, con­struc­tion to tur­bines, toys to fur­ni­ture and au­to­mo­bile parts to cheap Smart­phones and in­ter­net ser­vice providers. In­dia’s na­tional cricket team is spon­sored by a Chi­nese com­pany and one of the most ag­gres­sively ad­ver­tised prod­ucts across In­dia was a Chi­nese mo­bile that showed a top In­dian ac­tor sell­ing their prod­uct. Just one com­pany, Huawei, has 22,000 em­ploy­ees in Ban­ga­lore. One of In­dia’s most revered pil­grim­ages, Kailash Mansarovar, is con­ducted with China’s co­op­er­a­tion and this year they sud­denly can­celled the route via Nathu La caus­ing im­mense dis­tress, though an­other much tougher route via Ut­tarak­hand to the holy shrine high in the Hi­malayas re­mained open.

This sce­nario calls Bei­jing to un­der­stand the need for a ma­ture and pru­dent ap­proach to prob­lems, not the Dok­lam kind of ap­proach.

It ap­pears from Modi’s trip that Pres­i­dent Xi has a pos­i­tive ap­proach and now that his ten­ure till 2022 is se­cure with his en­dorse­ment by his party in Oc­to­ber cer­tain, his at­ten­tion should be to cre­ate a place in his­tory not only to get his party and ad­min­is­tra­tion cleansed of cor­rup­tion but also to forge re­li­able, trust­wor­thy re­la­tions with In­dia.

If Modi is indis­putably In­dia’s most pow­er­ful Prime Min­is­ter Post In­de­pen­dence, Xi too has emerged the most pow­er­ful Chi­nese leader. Just last year, the party be­stowed upon him the ti­tle of “core leader” which was given ear­lier to lead­ers like Mao Ze­dong, Deng Xiaop­ing and Jiang Zemin. He is also Com­man­derin-Chief of the Joint Bat­tle Com­mand of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army and Chair­man of the Cen­tral Com­mis­sion for In­te­grated Mil­i­tary and Civil­ian De­vel­op­ment. He also heads many com­mis­sions de­signed to make eco­nomic re­forms and re­shape the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army.

Thou­sands have been jailed since Xi be­gan his anti-cor­rup­tion drive in­clud­ing Zhou Yongkang, con­sid­ered China’s most pow­er­ful man till 2012.

On our side, Modi is wag­ing a war on cor­rup­tion, black money and re­struc­tur­ing the econ­omy and de­fense ar­chi­tec­ture with bold steps never tried be­fore. Ma­jor chal­lenges in­clude turn­ing around the econ­omy and get­ting the ad­min­is­tra­tive ma­chin­ery to de­liver fast to the poor­est seg­ments and boost the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor’s mo­rale. Ter­ror­ism by Is­lamic groups is an­other se­ri­ous threat to In­dia’s de­vel­op­ment plans. We need to con­cen­trate on in­fra­struc­ture build­ing and invit­ing in­vest­ment while tack­ling the is­sues that the na­tion’s vi­brant, ro­bust and of­ten chaotic demo­cratic polity throws up. Ev­ery sec­ond month is elec­tion time and ev­ery state has its own pe­cu­liar de­mands and dis­cor­dant notes. In­dia needs an­other ten years of such con­ti­nu­ity in diplo­macy to emerge strongly on dif­fer­ent cru­cial fronts.

With these two strong lead­ers in Delhi and Bei­jing, much can be achieved. It is their lead­er­ship that will de­cide the des­tiny of more than 36 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. In­dian is also set to over­pass China in the pop­u­la­tion graph by 2024 and with the ad­van­tage of hav­ing the largest num­ber of young and skilled on our side, the march towards over­tak­ing China has be­gun.

Post-Xi­a­men, let the two na­tions and peo­ple work to make the next cen­tury mo­men­tous for Asia.

Pak­istani De­fense Min­is­ter Khur­ram Dast­gir

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