BRICS Declaration Silent on Cross Border Terrorism, Bears Russia- China Stamp
NEW DELHI: The BRICS Goa Declaration is a skilfully worded document carrying the stamp of Russia and China all over it. Key political concerns---Syria, Palestine,Afghanistan--- of the two United Nations Security Council member nations have been singled out for specific and detailed mention as a direct counter to the current positions taken by the United States and Israel on these issues.
Interestingly, despite the build up by the Indian media on how the issue of cross border terrorism would figure prominently at the summit there is not even a word in the Declaration, not even a hint, that can lead to some finger pointing at Pakistan.
The phrase ‘cross border terrorism’ does not appear even once in the long document. This despite the daily claims by the Indian media, quoting sources, that India will ensure that BRICS shares its concerns about Pakistan promoted terrorism. That this was not going to happen was indicated just before the summit, at bilateral meetings when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was unable to extract an assurance from China’s President Xi Jinping of removing the technical hold on the UNSC for designating Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar a terrorist.
And while Russian President Vladimir Putin shared concerns about Pakistan and terrorism, as indeed the world does, but clearly was not moved sufficiently to ensure this mention in the document of the 8th BRICS summit.
Instead Putin had a lucrative, big bucks visit signing 16 defence agreements with India including the supply of helicopters, stealth frigates,state of the art anti-missile defence systems and more. And in another deal that must have made Putin even more happy,Russia's largest oil company, Rosneft, signed an agreement to buy a controlling stake in India's Essar Oil for about $13 billion.
Despite this, there was no give to the Indian position on terrorism. In that while terror groups operating in Syria are named and identified in the declaration, the Pakistan terror groups are not even mentioned.
It needs to be pointed out here that terrorism is an issue that figures in all global and bilateral meetings across the world. And in any number of meetings in different international fora, member nations have all expressed their concerns about terrorism per se, and the need to dismantle the infrastructures, cut off funding, and in short, stamp out the scourge. Pakistan has been party to many such meetings, describing itself as a victim of terrorism. India was thus on a mission, if the media and its sources are to be believed, to ensure that BRICS too a tough stand not just on terrorism but cross border terrorism that could have been taken as a reference to Pakistan.
But the BRICS declaration has neither named the terror groups operating out of Pakistan, nor has it mentioned cross border terrorism in what can only be described as a failure of Indian diplomacy.
This becomes more glaring as the declaration shows no such hesitation when it comes to Syria where the Russians are at clear loggerheads with the United States. In fact when analysed the declaration reflects a clear cut opposition to the US positions in West Asia, and re-asserts the Russian stance.
The document emphasises the role of the UN Peacekeeping Operations and calls for strengthening these. It follows this with Point 14 where it states very clearly “On Syria we call upon all parties involved to work for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the conflict taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Suria, through inclusive national dialogue and a Syrian led political process..”
And then goes on to identify some of the UNSC designated terrorist groups operating in Syria with, “while continuing the relentless pursuit against terrorist groups so desinated by the UN Security Council including ISIL, Jabhat al Nusra and other terrorist organisations designated by the UN Security Council.”
There is no such paragraph, on Pakistan in the document. Not even a hint.
The phrase cross border is used for drugs and others such nefarious practices---not of course linked to any one country---but has not been used in even a South Asia context on terrorism. Pakistan where Russia has just concluded military exercises, and China is busy with the Economic Corridor, has thus been kept out of even finger pointing distance. At least insofar as the BRICS declaration is concerned.
The US position on Syria has been countered in the declaration, despite New Delhi’s growing ties with Washington. And again in Point 15, the declaration speaks at some length on Palestine countering both the US and Israel’s reiterated stand.
The BRICS document speaks instead of the “necessity to implement the two state solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the relevant UNSC resolutions, the Madrid Principle and Arab Peace Initiative, and previous agreements between the two sides, through negotiations aimed at creating an independent, viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel, within secure, mutually agreed, and internationall recognised borders on the basis of 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital as envisaged by the relevant UN resolutions.”
This in itself is a major step away from the declared Israeli and US position, and the inclusion of Palestine in the statement commits the BRICS nations to an issue that was fast being pushed into the marginalised space by the world.
On Afghanistan too, the BRICS statement insists on an Afghan led, and Afghan owned national reconciliation process, the need to combat terrorism etc but stresses on the importance of multilateral region led interaction of Afghan issues, “primarily by those organisations which consist of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries and other regional states.” The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Heart of Asia Conference are specifically named here.
Terrorism has been roundly and soundly condemned by the BRICS nations in the declaration. However, this comes towards the document and as pointed out above is general in nature. Rather significantly though there is a line at the end of Point 59 where the declaration call on all nations “to adopt a comprehensive approach in combating terroris” and lists all that constitutes this.
But at the end of this paragraph adds, “successfully combating terrorism requires a holistic approach. All counter terrorism measures should uphold international law and respect human rights.” This, as a senior former diplomat pointed out, is an interesting addition particularly in the Indian context.