Is Russia brokering a private India-China deal against terrorism?
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is believed to have sought his BRICS counterparts’ support in evolving a legal regime to combat terrorism. How this could be done in the absence of a comprehensively-agreed definition of terrorism is a moot point. It is suspected that even if Brazil, Russia, and South Africa agree to India’s proposition, China has no incentive to distance itself from its all-weather friend Pakistan, which is seen as the most vicious terror-exporting country in the world.
A similar effort at Ufa in Russia in 2015 to work out a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) had come a cropper.
However, Indian officials have not given up and are said to be working with fellow negotiators from BRICS to re-package CCIT in the Goa declaration and give it a political push. The declaration will be issued on Sunday at the end of the BRICS summit.
India’s lead negotiator, Amar Sinha, Secretary (Economic Relations) in charge of BRICS file in the Ministry of External Affairs, said: “In the meeting, our NSA had suggested perhaps we can move on terror cooperation without actually coming to a definition of terrorism because everybody knows. When a terrorist act happens, you know exactly what is terrorism. So you don’t have to first start defining it. You take the act as a terrorist act and work backward. So that is one of the suggestions but I am sure we will push that.”
Despite India making serious efforts for adoption of CCIT at almost every global forum — the latest being at the United Nations General Assembly where External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj urged the UN to adopt it — there has not been any headway. This is because countries have different opinions on the key question: What is terrorism?
Even as the semantic debate goes on, there is no doubt that the Goa Brics summit will be dominated by security and economic issues. “We will be looking at the global economic and political situation, and obviously terrorism is a very important part of that,” Sinha said at a pre-Summit briefing.
To prevent the summit look like a failure on the issue of terrorism, Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi might strike a private deal, possibly brokered by President Vladimir Putin. What the contours of this private deal may be could be known only after the summit. May it be noted that China has been deeply worried about its investments in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor because of growing Islamist violence in Pakistan.
“Contrary to the public messaging in Islamabad, China is not the perpetual jolly partner when it comes to its relations with Pakistan,” said Michael Kugelman, a senior programme associate at the Wilson Center in Washington who focuses on South Asia. “With China’s investments and economic assets growing in Pakistan, it’s only natural that it would worry. All militants, whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as characterised by Pakistan, threaten stability and by extension, China’s economic interests.”
Fearful of its bad investment decision in CPEC, Beijing may be looking at an alternative that provides it with an equally powerful reach in the Indian Ocean. This is reflected in Xi visiting Bangladesh on Friday en route to Goa where he is expected to sign loans worth $24 billion. China has already been engaged in upgrading and modernising Chittagong Port.