BRICS Summit: Will China care for its own interests or play Pak card?

Apart from terror, the summit may make critical announcements on development initiatives in the Bay of Bengal region with an outreach to the 7-nation BIMSTEC

BRICS Summit: Will China care for its own interests or play Pak card?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to meet on Saturday his BRICS counterparts for bilateral interactions to prepare a common ground. “There would be very strong paragraphs on terrorism, including how to deal with countries that provide sanctuaries and safe havens and how to cut down their financing,” said Amar Sinha, MEA Secretary (Economic Relations), at a press briefing this week.

However, the problem in India’s ties with China - reflected in the latter's opposition to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers group, and blocking the designation of Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar as a UN-sanctioned terrorist - could make the language more difficult to agree upon. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to broker peace between India and China.

Apart from terror, the Summit might make critical announcements on development initiatives in the Bay of Bengal region with an outreach to the 7-nation BIMSTEC.

Of course, Pakistan, through China, could bring up the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) issue as a point of order in view of India's clear and present support to the Balochistan freedom movement. The CPEC is stuck because Balochs have made it clear that they won't let it happen. As China has not spent a penny on the project since its announcement two years ago, it may not like to be seen as the spoilsport of the summit. Also because its larger interests may be fulfilled through a comprehensive BRICs outreach programme with BIMSTEC.

Further, China may not be tempted to push the Pakistani card to compromise its own interests. For the Chinese, the priority is to push their own economic interests in stable India than in unstable Pakistan. That is the reason why Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Foreign minister Wang Yi’s visited New Delhi before Xi’s visit. Indeed, Yang, who is a key player in the inner circle of Beijing, had written to Xi, calling for rebalancing China's policy for India, as reported first by

Sources said that Beijing is keen to explore a “bilateral trading arrangement” so that there are no trade barriers, tariff or non-tariff. Chinese diplomats have been carefully watching the anti-China sentiment and call on social media for the boycott of Chinese goods, following Beijing's obstructive policies against India on issues of India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers' Group and naming of Masood Azhar as a UN-designated global terrorist.

China would also want more people-to-people contacts, a euphemism for a more liberal visa arrangement for Chinese businessmen and tourists, apart from skilled professionals. The Indian security establishment, however, is in no hurry to relent, sources said.

Read also: China may be rebalancing its India policy

Ahead of his arrival in Goa, Modi said in a statement that the decision to facilitate a BRICS outreach with the BIMSTEC countries was “significant”. Sri Lankan President Sirisena, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda, Myanmar State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi and Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay will meet BRICS leaders on Sunday. Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has cancelled his visit because of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death and will be represented by his vice Foreign Minister.

Modi said the BRICS forum was “anchored in the belief” that its “people are pivotal partners in our effort to craft responsive, collective and inclusive solutions.”“I also look forward to useful conversations with my fellow leaders from China, South Africa, Brazil and Russia on addressing pressing international and regional challenges that stand in the way of our goals,” he added.

According to officials, terrorism may figure as the central challenge as well as India’s push to have a comprehensive convention on international terrorism (CCIT) adopted at the U.N. The fifth BRICS summit at Brasilia in 2010 had included an appeal for an “early conclusion of negotiations in the UN General Assembly of the CCIT and its adoption by all Member States,” but India would like to see more decisive language at the convention as well the threat of cross-border terrorism and support by Pakistan to terror groups in the wake of the Uri attack.

“A key item at this year's summit will be anti-terrorism. All BRICS members do not want to solve bilateral disputes via politicised multilateral platforms.” Liu Zongy, a senior fellow at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, wrote in jingoist Global Times on Friday, adding that BRICS countries cannot take sides on the Kashmir issue or label a country as "supporter of terrorism”. GT is globally seen as chatterbox of China's foreign office and sounding board for its mischievous tricks.

The summit and retreat are being held at a sprawling resort in South Goa, where all the leaders will meet for dinner on Saturday night, followed by the BRICS conference and BIMSTEC outreach on Sunday.

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