Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday succeeded in getting BRICS members to make their strongest statement on terrorism but a consensus eluded India’s efforts to nail Pakistan-based terror groups.
Sunday’s huddle of the five emerging economies in scenic Goa began with the Indian Prime Minister launching a scathing attack on Pakistan, without naming the neighbour, and calling it the “mothership of terrorism … linked to terror modules across the world”.
Modi urged Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa to “speak in one voice against terrorism” and assign top priority to combating terror, including cross-border violence — a veiled reference to Pakistan.
“This country shelters not just terrorists. It nurtures a mindset. A mindset that loudly proclaims that terrorism is justifiable for political gains,” Modi said.
Pakistan reacted strongly, describing Modi’s statement as misleading and a desperate attempt to hide “India’s brutalities” in Kashmir.
“Pakistan joins all the members of BRICS and BIMSTEC in condemning terrorism and reaffirms its full commitment to fight the menace of terrorism,” Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to PM Nawaz Sharif, said.
Building India’s case against Pakistan later at the plenary session of the BRICS summit, Modi said “selective approaches to terrorist individuals and organisations” would not only be futile but also counter-productive.
His comments came amid efforts to persuade China and Russia to join New Delhi’s campaign to diplomatically isolate Pakistan, which India blames for cross-border terror and unrest in Kashmir.
On Saturday, while Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly condemned terrorism in all forms, prompting Modi to say Moscow’s stand “mirrors our own”, Indian officials speaking about the Prime Minister’s meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping used defensive language, signalling little progress in those talks.
Beijing gave no assurance on supporting New Delhi in getting Pakistan-based militant leader Masood Azhar declared as terrorist by the United Nations. China, which calls itself the all-weather ally of Pakistan, only said terrorism was a “key issue” and the two sides should strengthen their security dialogue.
Modi’s aggressive pitch found reflection in the summit declaration, which mentioned terrorism at least 24 times and was worded in a way that Indian officials found “satisfying”.
“We recall the responsibility of all states to prevent terrorist actions from their territories,” said the declaration, described by Amar Sinha, India’s chief negotiator at the BRICS, as a new and significant addition.
“If you look at what the joint statement says, I think, it is pretty clear we are talking about our neighbourhood,” Sinha said. “We were focused on the ideas we wanted included.” However, critics pointed out, the declaration fell short of India’s ambitions.
While it named the Islamic State, Jabat al-Nusra, the Syrian Islamist rebel group that recently rebranded itself as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and other UN designated groups, it didn’t call for action against Pakistan-based terror groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed that India holds responsible for the Uri attack that left 19 Indian soldiers dead.
“I guess it doesn’t concern all the BRICS countries. Perhaps, that’s why we couldn’t get a consensus on naming these groups,” said Sinha.
Even as the summit was overshadowed by talks on terrorism, officials said, it also made significant progress in reviving economic cooperation between the member countries. Modi said the group, which represents nearly half of the world’s population and a quarter of its economy, with a combined annual GDP of $16.6 trillion, agreed to double intra-BRICS trade to $500 billion and step up the work on the National Development Bank, formerly the BRICS Development Bank.
Xi underscored the need to fight protectionist policies and promised Beijing would continue to bolster trade and investment flow with other BRICS nations. Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed new initiatives for cooperation in energy.