A summit of the world’s top five emerging economies begins in Goa on Saturday, but a fresh rift between the bloc’s leaders, China and India, could hamper New Delhi’s plans to highlight cross-border terrorism and isolate Pakistan.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the gathering of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- or BRICS -- offers an opportunity to underline the threat he sees to Indian security from militant violence directed from Pakistan. A bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping was also expected to iron out recent irritants in ties.
But across the summit table at a luxurious hotel overlooking the Arabian Sea, Xi is unlikely to have much interest in casting Beijing’s “all-weather” alliance with Pakistan into doubt.
That became clear on Friday when China said it will continue to block India’s efforts to ban Pakistan-based militant Masood Azhar and New Delhi’s application to join the influential Nuclear Suppliers Group until a consensus emerged.
“All parties are divided in listing of the relevant people. And this is why China has put on hold (the banning of Azhar),” Geng Shuang, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said. “This will give enough time to make the listing decision and also shows the responsible and professional attitude of the Chinese side.”
China had extended a “technical hold” at UN, a virtual veto, against declaring Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar a “terrorist” earlier this month – the second time after April, triggering tensions with India.
To worsen matters, a recent call by Indian businesses to boycott Chinese goods is also souring ties, with the Chinese media warning against any protectionism.
Besides, Xi on Friday sanctioned a $24-billion line of credit to Bangladesh, in what is being seen as an attempt by Beijing to have a greater say in a country that New Delhi considers within its sphere of influence. This is 12 times the money Modi promised Dhaka last year.
Still, India is expected to keep the discussions focussed on security at the eighth annual summit of the BRICS grouping, pushing for a comprehensive counter-terrorism plan. This time around, Modi is likely to stress the need for countries to deny sanctuaries to terrorists and take a relook at the way the United Nations designates terrorists, sources said.
Discussions are also expected to focus on Pakistan at an outreach meeting between the five nations and BIMSTEC, a grouping of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan Thailand.
On Saturday, Modi meets Russian President Vladimir Putin for the 17th annual India-Russia summit and hosts Xi and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma for separate bilateral meetings.
The India-Russia summit will see a pact on the delivery of advanced air defence system, a framework agreement for two new nuclear reactors at Kudankulam and measures to step up investment flows with a greater accent on Make in India flagship.
Modi is also expected to focus on increasing Chinese investment, which have stayed somewhat flat under $2billion and offered little cushion against India’s burgeoning trade deficit with China that now stands at $50 billion annually, government sources said. Given the latest spat, that might be a tough ask, however.
The BRICS summit will begin with a customary dinner attended by the leaders on Saturday. The formal meeting on Sunday will see the leaders also address core themes such as boosting intra-BRICS trade -- which accounts for just 5% of their total trade -- greater cooperation in the fields of agriculture, sports and people-to-people ties.
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