Russia's support to BRICS declaration is tying down Pakistan
The statement officially listed terror groups emanating from Pakistani soil.
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Strong statements by US president Donald Trump, indicting Pakistan for supporting terror groups on its soil, were followed by a similar declaration by the BRICS, which officially listed terror groups emanating from Pakistani soil.
The Pakistan government objected to both the statements and is presently working on reorienting its US strategy. With both China and Russia behind the BRICS statement, Pakistan was caught between the pincers. Its denials were feeble and ignored by the international community. It even compelled the Pakistan army chief, General Bajwa to state that the Kashmir issue should be resolved by dialogue.
Afghanistan continues to openly criticise Pakistan for aiding terror. The US has begun hinting at the possibility of placing Pakistan or other countries involved in supporting terror groups under sanctions. To indicate its firmness, Washington has already ordered the closure of Pakistan's largest bank, Habib, in New York, on charges of financing terror activities.
Thus, Pakistan continues to face ever-increasing heat from all corners.
Recently, two comments concerning Pakistan were made by Russia: first, Russia welcomed the BRICS summit statement listing terror groups. It was evident that Russia had impressed upon China during the summit to drop its reservations on naming Pakistan-based terror groups in the joint statement.
The BRICS statement automatically gave Russia diplomatic leverage over Pakistan. Photo: Reuters
A Russian diplomat went on to state that the naming of terror groups is an important breakthrough for countries sharing terror concerns in the region. This clearly implies that Russia would support India in its dealings with Pakistan. The BRICS statement automatically gave Russia diplomatic leverage over Pakistan.
The second statement was recently issued by Pakistani newspapers and quoted their foreign ministry officials as saying that both Russia and China have agreed to support the country in case the US plans to impose sanctions on the Islamic republic. US sanctions are basically for those groups operating in Afghanistan, including the Taliban and the Haqqani network, which are being officially supported by the deep state. While the two statements are linked to Pakistan-aided terror groups, they are not contrary.
The newspaper statement indicates the impact of geopolitics and international relations. Both China and Russia have poor relations with the US, hence would never permit US sanctions against Pakistan, unless they too are impacted, as has been the case with North Korea. Thus, while they would support Pakistan in the case of Washington-based sanctions by employing their veto, they would continue pressuring it to reduce support to terror groups.
In panic post the US and BRICS statement, Pakistan foreign minister, Khawaja Asif rushed to China. The joint statement issued following the visit mentioned that nations should recognise the Pakistan's contribution in fighting terror groups on its soil. There was no mention of the BRICS declaration, nor of terror groups operating from the Pakistan soil.
Hence, the statement was a diluted one, indicating only support against US actions, but quiet on anti-India terror groups. This has been an innocuous declaration compared to most earlier ones on the subject between the two countries. China, due to its massive investments in the country, is compelled to support Pakistan against any US actions - be it military or imposition of sanctions.
Russian support to the Indian stand on Pakistan-based terror groups, as was evident in the BRICS statement, is likely to put pressure on Pakistan to begin curbing terror groups operating from its soil.
Russia is unlikely to give Pakistan a free run in its future endeavours of launching terror strikes on India. This could be a quid pro quo for support from US-threatened sanctions. Here is where Indian diplomacy should be concentrating: taking advantage of the position Pakistan is in. Further, Russia is seeking new markets for its defence industry crippled by western sanctions; post its misadventure in Ukraine, Pakistan is a welcome addition.
The game at play is Afghanistan. Russia and China seek a larger role in the handling of the Afghanistan crises, as they or their satellite nations are directly impacted by the growing presence of ISIS in the country. Presently, the combined Russian and Chinese initiative includes Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and India. It is also well-known that Russia, China and Iran are in contact with the Taliban leadership for varying national interests.
The US, on the other hand, seeks to operate alone in Afghanistan, with India supporting and participating in economic development. With sanctions imposed on Moscow, the US cannot be seen to be collaborating with Russia on Afghanistan.
Pakistan is and will remain at a crossroads. Pressure will continue to build from the US, including through drone strikes across the border on the anti-Afghan terror groups that Islamabad supports.
While China and Russia come to its aid against US sanctions, Pakistan will be the loser if terror activities increase on its soil. Hence, it would need to walk a tight rope - and has its own internal problems restricting its actions.
The deep state controls terror groups operating from its soil, while the polity bears the brunt of international criticism. The defence minister recently made a statement wherein he stated that the state needs to do more to curb the activities planned by anti-India terror groups.
Opposition leaders condemned his comments. Statements emanating from Pakistan that there are no groups operating on its soil had no takers. Even China refused to buy the claim, as the last joint statement indicated.Pakistan, despite its tall claims and counter statements on the BRICS summit, can only bank on Russia and China to pull it out of the mess it has created for itself. This can only happen if it cracks down on terror groups within.
For India, this is a diplomatic opportunity to engage positively with Russia to ensure that pressure continues to be built on the Pakistan to control anti-India terror groups if it desires Moscow's support against possible US sanctions. We need to look ahead and take advantage of the position Pakistan is in, ensuring those it considers allies force it to act against terror. Diplomatic slumber now would let this opportunity pass into the sunset.