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  Brics & Bimstec: A mixed bag for India

Brics & Bimstec: A mixed bag for India

Published : Oct 18, 2016, 12:12 am IST
Updated : Oct 18, 2016, 12:12 am IST

The recent Brics summit hosted by India in Goa, and along with it the outreach to the seven Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) nations that were r

The recent Brics summit hosted by India in Goa, and along with it the outreach to the seven Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) nations that were represented at the summit level (except Thailand) was sought to be designed by India to suit its current foreign policy imperatives. The results can said to have been mixed at best.

India’s effort was to emphasise that terrorism emanating from Pakistan is an international and regional scourge that bedevils peace, stability and development prospects. The Brics communiqué devoted several paragraphs to condemning terrorism. It named outfits such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, but not the Pakistan-based groups that wreak havoc inside India, though there was a reference to terrorist organisations named by the UN, of which Pakistan’s Jaish-e-Mohammed is one.

On Monday, the day after the conclusion of the summit, the Chinese foreign ministry noted that Beijing was not in favour of blaming a country or a religion for terrorism. This was an insouciant attempt to defend its strong relationship with Pakistan and paper over Islamabad’s use of militant proxies.

Beijing also reiterated that Pakistan was its “all-weather friend”. It’s evident that its stakes in Pakistan have increased phenomenally with the pledging of $46 billion for infrastructure development that would culminate in the building of Gwadar port in trouble-hit Baluchistan, which is likely to become a Chinese naval base.

Given this context, India may expect little by way of solicitude from China on matters like NSG membership. Their cool bilateral vibes could impact Brics’ economic agenda. In fact, the Goa summit may be seen as China’s attempt to scuttle India’s anti-terrorist agenda and diplomatically give it a shove in a conference of countries that only weeks ago rejected Islamabad’s invitation to attend the Saarc summit.

Of the eight Saarc countries, all except three (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Maldives) are in Bimstec on account of their geography. In Goa, they spoke out strongly against terror attacks against India. Of course, they also court China on account of Chinese military and economic heft.

Deliverance for India came in the shape of Russia. Moscow signed defence deals worth thousands of crores of rupees with India. These include the supply of five S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft systems, a joint venture for manufacturing 200 Kamov light helicopters, and four guide missile stealth frigates, and agreements in space, security, railways, energy, and smart cities.

Moscow recently held an anti-terrorism military exercise with Pakistan, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi bent himself to woo President Vladimir Putin. It remains to be seen, though, how India’s recently stamped strategic convergence with the United States plays with Moscow, though the two can do much together, including in Afghanistan and Central Asia despite Russia’s proximity to China.