Cavelossim (Goa): After a relatively tepid response from BRICS, India was backed by the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) on the need to take “strong measures” against states that support terror groups. The group also specifically said there should be “no glorification of terrorists and martyrs”.
The leaders of the seven countries that are a part of BIMSTEC – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand – had first met for a ‘retreat’ at a five-star resort in South Goa. Then, they joined the five BRICS countries (India, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) for an outreach event on Sunday evening.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi used every opportunity during the BRICS and BIMSTEC sessions on Sunday to diplomatically isolate Pakistan – using memorable terms like “mothership of terrorism” and a country that “radiates darkness of terrorism” to describe India’s western neighbour.
The BRICS Goa declaration mostly included recycled phrases on terrorism from previous summits, with one notable exception. The five leaders recognised the “responsibility of all states to prevent terrorist actions from their territories”. However, no favourite Indian buzzwords like “cross-border terrorism” were used, with officials insisting that a multilateral document is the product of a long negotiation process that will only have language acceptable to all.
In contrast, the BIMSTEC document was rather sharp, describing terrorism as the “single most significant threat to peace and stability in our region”.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the recent barbaric terror attacks in the region,” said the BIMSTEC statement. Referring to the Uri terror attack, they said they “strongly condemn the recent several attacks, against some BRICS countries, including that in India”.
The five South Asian and two Southeast Asian countries stressed that the “fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and eliminate terrorists, terror organisations and networks, but should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against States who encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues”.
In a counter of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s description of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani as a martyr, the BIMSTEC statement asserted, “There should be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs”.
The leaders committed to “take concrete measures to step up cooperation and coordination among our law enforcement, intelligence and security organisations”.
“We commit to expedite the signing of the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, and to early ratification of the BIMSTEC Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking,” it added.
India had sent invitations to the BIMSTEC countries for the outreach event in April, much before the current dip in relations. At that time, India and Pakistan were still working to find some common ground in the post-Pathankot attack period, with the national security advisors talking to each other and a Pakistan team that was probing the complaint against Jaish-e-Mohammed visiting the Indian air force base.
Indian officials had then calculated that inviting SAARC leaders would not be feasible, as the annual summit of South Asian leaders was scheduled in Islamabad for less than a month after the Goa event.
In the end, the presence of the BIMSTEC leaders helped to push out a strong message on terrorism from Goa – unlike the more general terms in the BRICS statement.
At BRICS, China had pushed back on the Indian priority, with President Xi Jinping pointedly talking of the need to address “symptoms and root causes” in relation to terrorism. On Monday, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson also said that Pakistan had made “sacrifices” in the war against terrorism and there should be no finger-pointing at one country.
Speaking to reporters, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that India had not undertaken an isolation campaign against Pakistan. “If anybody has been isolated, it is due to the policies of those countries. India didn’t have to do anything,” he said.