Modi must be praised for BRICS-BIMSTEC summit

Breakthrough with Russia notwithstanding, the PM will have to come up with an out-of-the-box approach for China.

 |  4-minute read |   22-10-2016
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"Modi makes summitry look easy," writes former foreign secretary MK Rasgotra in his recent book, A Life in Diplomacy.

Those who have followed the eighth BRICS summit and first BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in Goa recently, will agree with him.

Outreach

Prime Minister Narendra Modi slipped in the role of the chairman of BRICS effortlessly, oozing with confidence, clarity and robustness.

Though there has been criticism from some quarters, saying Modi didn't have his way at the summit and that China, with Russia's support, stole the thunder, the fact is that the PM displayed tremendous stamina and mental alertness to conduct bilateral meetings with leaders of all the BRICS and BIMSTEC members.

In a smart move, he first got Russian President Vladimir Putin on board, ironing out the wrinkles generated by the much-hyped Moscow-Islamabad joint military exercise in Pakistan.

With defence deals worth $10.5 billion and four big contracts in the field of oil and gas in his kitty, the Russian president not just strongly condemned the Uri attack but also supported India's right to take action against terrorists.

brics-summit-2016-im_102216091721.jpg BRICS leaders at this year's summit in Goa. (Photo credit: Reuters)

While Putin's unsparing flogging of Islamabad has many takers, Pakistan's all-weather friend, China, wasn't prepared to give up on it. Modi's strong allusions to Pakistan met the unshaken Chinese wall.

The joint statement is conspicuously silent on the Uri attack and Pakistan's role in cross-border terrorism, which Modi stressed also, affected economic development of the region.

The joint statement talks of unprecedented global threat to international peace and security posed by the ISIS and underlines the need of "comprehensive approach in fighting terrorism" and increasing the effectiveness of the UN counterterrorism framework and expediting adoption of CCIT (Comprehensive Convention on International terrorism).

The message is clear: terrorism faced by India is primarily a bilateral issue, while the threat posed by ISIS is a global phenomenon.

This clearly reflects the Chinese narrative to shield Pakistan.

While Chinese President Xi Jinping saw prospects in the railway sector, industrial parks and further investment to reduce Sino-Indian trade imbalance, he didn't concede anything on India's bid for the NSG membership, listing of Masood Azhar on the UN terrorists list, or even Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Modi will have to come up with an out-of-the-box approach to scale the great Chinese wall.

Statement

Given India's growing closeness to the US and Japan, the India-China relationship might not witness any spring in foreseeable future.

The joint statement - "Successfully combating terrorism requires a holistic approach. All counterterrorism measures should uphold international law and respect human rights" - appears a veiled criticism of the American and Indian approach in fighting terrorism.

The joint statement covers almost everything under the sun - from money laundering, cyber crime and climate change to HIV, gender equality and comprehensive UN reforms.

It favours an Afghanistan government-led, Afghan-owned endeavour at fighting terrorism and seeking national reconciliation.

In Syria it talks of "comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the conflict taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria, through inclusive national dialogue and a Syrian-led political process based on Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012".

It's closer to the Russian and Chinese stand than the US and the EU one, which has been striving for an early Assad exit for long.

It supports the WTO as the promoter and arbitrator of free global trade with its decisions based on consensus and reaffirm BRICS's commitment for a strong, quota-based and adequately-resourced IMF.

However, in the prevailing economic realities, with all the members - China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa - facing economic downturns in their countries, any major restructuring of the World Bank or the IMF looks unlikely.

Potential

However, the New Development Bank, which hopes to disburse over $1 billion next year in loans, can play a useful role in supporting projects of infrastructure and connectivity in BIMSTEC and sustainable development in Africa.

The idea of setting up a BRICS Credit Rating Agency should be lauded.

Holding the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit was a brilliant idea. It has potential to broaden India's economic and political clout, blunt China's domination, further isolate Pakistan, strengthen India's Look East policy, speed up connectivity and growth in India's Northeast, and give the 11-member group a greater say in establishing an equitable, rule-based multi-polar global order.

The jury may still be out on how much India has got from the summit, but there's no denying that Modi has taken India's diplomacy to an altogether different level.

He doesn't shy away from articulating the country's concerns at summits despite opposition from major players.

At Goa, Modi has emerged as a global leader with vision and ideas that are capable of shaping global discourse.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Also read - Success of BRICS shows growing international clout of India

Writer

Surendra Kumar Surendra Kumar @ambksurendra

The writer is a retired diplomat and expert on strategic affairs.

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