The BRICS summit was held this week between Sept 3-5 in Xiamen, China and was attended by the heads of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The summit was significant as it was held against the backdrop of the border dispute between India and China in the Doklam area in the Himalayas. The theme of this years’ BRICS summit was ‘Stronger Partnership for a brighter future’.
The recent Doklam conflict between India and China had created doubts about a successful summit this year and a dark cloud of suspicion was hanging over Indian PM Modi’s attendance in this year’s summit, but the tension was alleviated when the 73-day deadlock ended just days before the BRICS summit. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement on August 28, announcing “expeditious disengagement” of personnel and equipment from Doklam area and a day later, the ministry confirmed PM Narendara Modi’s attendance in BRICS Summit in China.
Unfortunately, for Pakistan, the 9th BRICS Summit brought no good news, but instead showed more worrying signs for Pakistan. One main outcome of the summit was that for the first time, the BRICS nations specifically named Pakistan-based terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Haqqani network. The joint declaration of member nations condemned terrorism and expressed their concerns on the security situation in the region and violence caused by Taliban, ISIL/Daesh, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.
After Trump’s announcement of New Afghan policy and his accusations on Pakistan of providing safe havens to terrorist organisations, the BRICS summit has reiterated the same stance, and what is more concerning this time is that China is also on the list of those nations now who blame Pakistan of financing and supporting terrorist organisations.
For India, the BRICS summit was a complete diplomatic success due to various reasons. Firstly, the mention of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Haqqani Network in the summit. It has happened for the first time that China has endorsed such a statement, which has named Pakistan-based terrorist groups. On many occasions in the past, China has refused India’s bid backed by US and Britain of declaring Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief Masood Azhar as a UN-designated terrorist. The inclusion of China in this joint statement indicates that our closest ally is also increasingly concerned about terrorist groups in Pakistan and wants Pakistan to adopt a hard line against those elements.
The Chinese stance at the BRICS summit shouldn’t come as a surprise for Pakistan. Stability in the region and especially in Pakistan would guarantee success to China’s multi-billion OBOR and CPEC projects. Therefore, it’s imperative for China to not put these projects at risk under any circumstances.
PM Modi and Chinese head Xi Jinping also met on the side lines for a bilateral meeting for the first time after Doklam conflict. Both heads acted with a lot of maturity, which indicated the full commitment of both nations and paved way for a successful summit. The Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar stated that it was a forward-looking conversation with an emphasis on peace and tranquillity on border areas. He further added that, both sides felt that there should be closer communication between the defence and security personnel of India and China. Modi took to Twitter and wrote, ‘met Xi Jinping. We held fruitful talks on bilateral relations between India and China’. Xi Jinping reiterated the stance that China and India are important neighbours and should work together on maintaining peace and stability in our border areas to strengthen bilateral relationship and bring them on a right track under the guidance of Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.
The mention of Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence is quite interesting as it indicates China’s wish to mend and strengthen bilateral relations after the Doklam strife. The five principles refer to the Pancheel Agreement between India and China signed in April 29, 1954, which includes mutual respect for each other, territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-interference, equal and mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence. India was already at loggerheads with China over China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative and CPEC, which had hindered any development of bilateral relationship between both countries.
Similarly, the withdrawing of forces and equipment from Doklam was also a masterstroke. Full marks need to be given to both countries on agreeing on an ‘expeditious disengagement’. India had already boycotted Belt Road Initiative (BRI) Summit this year in May and a further non-attendance of India in BRICS summit would have intensified the deadlock and dented the image of both nations and also the reputation of BRICS summit. Therefore, analysing the importance of the current situation, both countries have acted with utmost maturity, opting for an effective solution, which would not further hamper their bilateral relationship.
China’s such sympathetic attitude with India and intentions of increasing bilateral ties is also giving heartburns to lawmakers in Islamabad. On top of that, China’s inclusion in BRICS joint statement regarding naming of Pakistan-based terrorist organisations has fuelled serious concerns in Islamabad. Although the Chinese envoy in Pakistan afterwards stated that BRICS statement wouldn’t signify any change in policy towards Pakistan, officials in China seem to be concerned about the terror financing in Pakistan and it needs to be stopped. Through BRICS summit, the message is conveyed to Pakistan that, stability in the region will guarantee success of OBOR and CPEC.
The bottom line is that Pakistan cannot afford to lose its relationship with its closest ally, China. US has already alienated Pakistan and Pakistan’s position as a major non-NATO ally is already in danger. There is no room for Pakistan to face any more isolation. Pakistan needs to adopt a hard line against terrorist organisations including LeT and the Haqqani network. From a policy point of view, a clear and coherent foreign policy needs to be devised regarding to all neighbouring countries. Its high time that, both civilian and military leadership eliminate all differences and contour policies, focussing on eradicating terrorist outfits from the country and at the same time reviving bilateral talks with Afghanistan and USA. China’s massive investment and the success of OBOR and CPEC is also dependent on political and economic stability in Pakistan.